Work and Love

“Work is love made visible. / And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.” – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (1923)

I think that this is one of the most beautiful statements ever written about work or about love. The genius of Gibran is how he united the two, and so poetically.

Dad introduced me to the work of Gibran long ago, in the late 1970’s, I believe. I thought I had a copy of The Prophet inscribed by Dad, but I don’t.

Now, if you love what you do for a living, I am very happy for you.

Now, if you hate what you do for a living, why? Can you focus on the good things about the work you do? Can you re-engineer your attitude in light of the fact that so many are out of work or have been unemployed for extended periods of time? If not, it is time to update your résumé. Better yet, can you expand one of your hobbies into a business opportunity? Can you provide a needed service?

We hear the admonishment to “Follow your bliss.” We hear the claim “Do what you love and the money will follow.” What relationship do these statements have to making a living? You might think that you have to work hard to make a living, and that’s just the way it is. However, the above statements have everything to do with making a living. I believe that a re-statement of “… and the money will follow” is called for; a key is an examination of how we make, value, and spend our money.

If “work is not love made visible” for us, we are likely not doing what we are called to do. If we are not working at something we want to do, we “aren’t making a living, we’re making a dying.”  (Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez with Monique Tilford, Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, 2008 revised and updated edition).

I met Vicki Robin in January 2009, and she is a kind person and I think very aware of the transformation she and Joe Dominguez unleashed in millions of people’s lives over the years since the original edition of their book was published in 1992. She has become a key thinker on sustainable development and founder of many organizations working on transitions to sustainable development.

Hope, love, and transformation are keys to my thinking and to this blog. Our work – if it lies at the intersection of these things – can be a source of great joy. My blog is largely about these … and books.

Do you want to change your life for the better beginning right now? If you haven’t read Your Money or Your Life, obtain a copy of this book, read it, and follow the nine steps as outlined! If you’ve read it, follow the nine steps!

My hope for you is that your work becomes love made visible.

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About Andrew Shattuck McBride

I am a writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant. I work in a variety of genres, including poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. I also have a couple of novels simmering on back burners. THANK YOU to Nan Macy of Village Books for taking this photo (June 2011).
This entry was posted in Authors, Books, Transformation. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Work and Love

  1. elisajeglin says:

    It’s great to find you here as well ;p As for your post, I think it reflects how most in the writing community feel; however it’s not necessarily the way of life. Some people have to work hard and endure jobs they despise in order to put food on the table. And some writers will work hard jotting down word after word, but they’re work will never be published, or if it is, will fade away with the hudreds and thousands of other authors who come out each year with little monetary compensation. This also makes one wonder, if everybody is making a living at what they want to do, what happens to the jobs that need to be done that aren’t as satisfying, like the trash man? Or the sceptic man? I’m sure these jobs weren’t first on the list and they need to be done never the less. I encourage people to follow their dreams, but only a handful will make it. Some will fail due to their own shortcomings, and others to the way of the world. So while I agree with your ideal, I don’t agree that it works even most of the time in practice.

    • Hi elisajeglin, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment.

      I think that your comments on writers are good ones. With few writers making a living by writing, even we writers have to cobble together a series of jobs to “make ends meet.” As far as publishing goes, there are more and more opportunities for writers to see their work in print or on line – even if there might be little or no compensation. Self publishing is an increasingly important option. Ultimately the writing and the storytelling is the test.

      I believe my post still applies. I wrote: “Now, if you hate what you do for a living, why? Can you focus on the good things about the work you do? Can you re-engineer your attitude in light of the fact that so many are out of work or have been unemployed for extended periods of time?”

      Attitude is key. As I was thinking about your post, I thought of the old saying “Before enlightenment: chopping wood, carrying water. After enlightenment: chopping wood, carrying water.” The person who works as a trashman or who works fixing septic systems doesn’t have to be miserable. These are jobs which actually pay relatively well. He or she may choose to be miserable, but the better choice is to find joy in being outside, being around people, and doing essential work.

      Thanks again, and blessings, Andy

  2. Lynne Spreen says:

    Do you think this really applies now, Andrew? I think not, for two reasons (even though in normal times I would wholeheartedly agree with you): potential customers/clients have less (or no) money to spend on one’s newly-inspired product, and jobs are scarce to nonexistent. I have several friends who are willing to follow their bliss, be creative, think outside the cubicle, etc. in finding new work or reshaping/reimagining the work they do. It’s not helping. One who decided to be grateful she HAS a job just experienced a salary reduction, because as the boss put it, he had hundreds of peeps willing to come in and work for half her pay. Another, who used to be an account exec, interviewed to unload pallets at a warehouse, saying, “I’m fit. I love physical work. I’m ready!” but all she could find was packing eggs for minimum wage. I have more examples but I’m getting depressed. Thanks for trying to be positive, anyway.

    • Hi Lynne, thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      I will respectfully reply that yes, I certainly believe it to be true, now more than ever. There is certainly a widespread urge to hunker down, tighten belts, and despair. I am not saying that those reactions are not legitimate; they are. My point would be that people choose despair.

      As I wrote elisajeglin above, I believe that we will increasingly cobble together jobs and a series of careers to “make ends meet” and to “make a living” over our lifetimes.

      I believe that my comments concerning Your Money or Your Life remain valid. In a difficult economic time for many to most people, the book can be an indispensable guide to helping us evaluate and change the ways we make, value, and spend our money.

      By any chance, have you read the book?

      Being depressed about our current economic situation and the financial woes of our friends and acquaintances isn’t going to help. Shopping or retail therapy may provide an individual spike in happiness, but in the long run it isn’t going to help either. An economy built on unending consumption is a troubled economy.

      That is why I am interested in voluntary simplicity and sustainable development.

      Thanks again, and blessings, Andy

  3. C. R. Lanei says:

    Well, I don’t disagree that as an ideal it isn’t easy to meet (perhaps even impossible, after all that is what an ideal is about–something to strive for). But, in a lot of the neuroscience and psychology related materials I’ve read there is a fairly strong correlation between your construction of the world and your ability to find happiness. But, there are also caveats. Happiness and sadness are sort of infectious, that is to say–those around us heavily influence how we feel. Extremes of wealth right next door to extremes of poverty drastically influence how satisfied people are with their lives. And, helping others can often help us feel better.

    The point is, it will never be simple to find the right balance but it is still within our power. And while I don’t know that people with shit jobs love them, I think we’d be surprised that many folks are happy enough being trash collectors because they are able to feed their families and the job itself is somewhat low stress despite being unsavory. My father was a janitor for 17 of the years I lived under the same roof with him. He may have bitched and moaned sometimes but he did love the flexibility it gave him with his hours, he had access to the school’s library, he was also appreciated for his creativity by students and teachers at the schools he worked at. I would sometimes go with him to work, so the job also afforded him time with his child. But he did clean toilets and it was back breaking work. I think he managed to be happy (he recalls the time fondly) because he didn’t fixate on what he didn’t have but rather on what it gave him.

    It seems as though the hardest thing in the world is to find happiness and joy. Misery is really easy, we give it to each other like cheap gifts. Hopefully we each smarten up and make an effort to spread the joy to others–it will come back to us.

    • Hi C.R. Lanei, thank you very much for your thoughtful comments.

      I agree with your comments about our wiring and about how we are affected by others’ attitudes. I find that I no longer want to commiserate and linger with people who are experiencing extended periods of discouragement and depression. I want to encourage people. If someone wants to convince me to be discouraged and depressed too, I decline and leave!

      Very interesting comments about your father. I’ve found that the janitor is often enough the smartest person in the room. Can I put it in a “shout out” for “Good Will Hunting”?! [Andy, how did a popular culture reference get in your blog?!] Oh, and LOL!

      At my last (and FINAL) cubicle job, the janitor was a guy named Bill. Bill was an exceptionally wise and smart man; I really enjoyed talking with him. He was fully capable of working in one of the production lines at the company, but he chose not to. Being the one janitor at that company wasn’t a great job, but he was very helpful, had a great attitude, and was grateful. Finally, he was happy. Was he “following his bliss”? Well, the job allowed him to play music and mentor young musicians during his off hours, and those things help make him happy.

      Thanks again, and all the best, Andy

  4. elisajeglin says:

    A change in the way you look at your work can help, but doesn’t always. Attitude is a key, but it is not everything. While I did use the trashman and sceptic guy as an example, I do know even they can love their jobs. Even the field worker can love his work. But many don’t and I think the problem is deeper than just a person’s attitude. Being able to say I don’t really like my job, but hey I get a good paycheck could change a person’s attitude in the short run, but it won’t hold out for the long hall and falls exceedingly short of enlightment. Only changing one’s attitude is like putting a band aide over a deep wound. You can cover it up, but the underlying problem is still there. It’s not a permanent fix. The hard truth is happiness is work and changing one’s attitude is only one of the many steps.

    • Hi elisajeglin, thank you for your additional comments.

      I am an optimist. However, I haven’t been an optimist all my life.

      For much of my earlier career, I loathed the jobs I held. I didn’t care for many of the people I worked for or worked with. I was deeply pesssimistic, even suicidal at times, and was mired in despair much of the time. I drank and self medicated in that fashion. The best thing about my work was that I was able to see large parts of the U.S., live in Japan for a while, and travel around the world.

      I finally refused to work at jobs I loathed, and I finally refused to work with people who were mean, nasty, and negative. I finally decided to stop being so pessimistic about people, things, and the “way things are.”

      It is true that I was able to make these decisions partly because I do not have family responsibilities.

      If I focus on all of the negative things happening I will enlarge them in my life; I truly believe that.

      Now I live and work around writers and authors in real life and virtual life, and I am enjoying it immensely. I like the people I associate with. I am optimistic, and supportive and encouraging of other writers and authors. I rarely drink any more. There’s no need for “self-medication.”

      My optimism is hard won. It is mine.

      Now, my blog post represents how I feel, and I am hoping that it will help others. I think that you may be correct in pointing out that it may not. I appreciate your comments.

      Here’s to success in your writing and your projects.

      All the best, Andy

  5. Portia says:

    In my former life I was a triage nurse in an emergency room. Before that, I worked in a county jail and a state prison. I’ve first hand experience with the very worst members of our society. That being said I wanted to add a few opinions to the mix.

    Andy: Thank you, for your original thought. Your essay was thought provoking. And you are right about attitude, it makes all the difference. While I was in nursing school, I got up for months to work a 4 hour shift at McDonald’s. I had a blast. I knew the job wasn’t forever. I made some great friends and learned why you shouldn’t eat ice cream from Mickey D’s. The job allowed me to have a little spending money and spend time with my infant daughter. I loved my work.

    Fast forward 15 years. I’m just leaving a job where I made a good living. I loved what I did. But the atmosphere was toxic. Everyone walking around on eggshell, wondering when their pink slip would show up. Mine came a week ago…certified mail. After being hurts for about 30 seconds…I was relieved. It was as if fate decided to push me out of my state of enertia. Maybe writing is not my final destination…but I plan to have a blast on this next part of my journey. And if that means I have to sell Avon or pick oranges, or even do another stint at McDonald’s, I’ve decided to keep an attitude of learning and loving.

    • Portia, thank you so much for your comment. I laughed when I read your comments about the restaurant and ice cream. (Note to self…!). I understand about working in a toxic environment. I don’t think we realize the true costs of working in a toxic environment until we leave it or are able to leave it.

      Your sentence about being hurt and then relieved is a revelation. I want to congratulate you for your attitude, and for taking charge of your job search and your life. I believe your attitude of learning and loving is a great example for us.

      Thank you for your work as a nurse, and I wish you success with your job search. I am interested in your career as a writer, and I will be following your progress! I enjoyed reading your blog earlier.

      Finally, I just remembered that a market titled “Voices” (a magazine for healing) is accepting submissions until November. I believe that if you write health and healing-related pieces, your material may just find a home there.

      Portia, thanks again, and blessings to you and yours, Andy

  6. randi shaw says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I enjoyed reading your “work and love” I found it interesting and very thought provoking.
    I have always maintained “If you must work for a living choose something you
    Enjoy.” However, my thoughts are not nearly profound as the words by Kahlil Gibran.
    I did not mention another of my many interests include a small collection of
    very old books by well known authors and the Prophet is one of my books. I do believe it was printed in 1923.
    Huggz,
    Randi

    • Hi Randi, thank you very much for your kind comments. I think that “Work and Love” touched a nerve for many readers. I wrote it hoping that it would help. I am very appreciative of all of the feedback.

      Your quote “If you must work for a living choose something you enjoy” works for me. I think that few people can match the poetry of Gibran!

      Your books sound like treasures. If your copy of The Prophet is dated 1923, I believe it is likely a first edition. Nice!

      Randi, thanks again – and blessings, Andy

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