The staff of Saint John’s Cathedral – an image of authority and work
Chapter XV – Work
A Rule of Life
The Rev. Canon Charles LaFond
“Derive happiness in oneself from a good day’s work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us.” -Henri Matisse
Let this chapter be read slowly when the day arrives each month that this chapter is the one read. Work, like alcohol, food and shopping can be wonderful but it can also become addiction. So I want to love work, enjoy it and still keep it confined in its cage so that it does not become the drug which anesthetizes me to the pain of life which I must feel so that I am formed. Also, I have been liberated by God from the slavery of Egypt and so will not work as a a slave even for money.
Pottery, cooking for friends, writing, preaching, teaching, gardening, bee-keeping, reading – this work I love. And yet, I am a mere mortal – one who needs rest during a day, a week, a month and a year. I will take my rest and let my close friends remind me that I need to.
God created the cosmos and rested, so I know that my imago dei (my image of God) is that of the creator along with the lover and the giver – all three I am, because all three God is. So work can be holy and “very good” since God so named it in the creation myths.
“My food, said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). So I want to work, and I want to work for the unveiling of the Kingdom of God. But I believe that God loves us and wants us to be joyful when we can be, so I will ask myself hard questions when I find myself working when many other men and women would normally be with their families. I want to work hard, but not so hard that I am never lonely. Being alone is lovely at times. Feeling lonely is simply the result of not truly feeling a longing to connect which is biologically programmed into me. So I will try to connect to people when I am not working and when I am not enjoying solitude along with its comforts.
It seems to me also to be important to remain mindful about my work. Is it work about which I am passionate? Is it, as Mattise would say “illuminating the fog” or making more of it? Is my work in line with the art I want to make in life or is it just what gets me money or power or prestige – the three desert temptations of Jesus? The great care I must take when saying “yes” to new work, be it paid or volunteer, needs to be a “yes” to work which is a right fit for me. I must discern work – my “yes” and my “no” – and when I discern a “no” I must be willing to feel the pain and loss of the grief which comes honestly with speaking my “no” to the world and not doing that work. It is ok to say “no” to work and still be aware that doing it might have been fun or lucrative or impressive.
In the end, I am curating this one life, given to me daily as a gift. I will work hard and I will play hard, and I will live!