The Art of Work

Posted on May 26, 2019


The Art of Work

Two words thrown together that many find antithetical, or at least a bit contradictory, are “art” and “work.”

We all know that artists have to “work” to make their art. And we also know a guy going into the coal mines of Walker or Tuscaloosa County is also engaged in “work.”

In fact, to live (like a truck driver or schoolteacher) and to express ourselves (like a novelist, movie maker, or dancer), or in some combination of the two, we all have to “work.” That is part of the human condition.

Adam and Eve didn’t have to work, but they disobeyed God and so God put them and all of us who followed “to work.” God, perhaps feeling a bit sorry for the rest of us who inherited this original sin, then endowed or gave each of us a skill or calling or desire to work, not simply to make the best of things after Adam and Eve screwed up, but also to bring joy and fulfillment in our lives.

There are a lot more definitions of work than in the mines or making a video. Parenting is work. To do it right is work. It takes devotion and time and the wisdom to know that you are not your children’s buddy and friend, but their mentor and teacher. The rewards are multiple and fulfilling.

You will not make your teenagers happy by giving in to their whims or moods since you may “offend” them and want to be their “friends.” The kids that come out of that shoot are usually ugly, self-serving adults. Correcting this type of behavior, BTW, begins when they are little guys and are behaving like miniature self-centered princes.

Some work is drudgery, and some is fulfilling, a lot of it is exhausting.

Work is such a fundamental part of our lives that we tend to take it for granted. I don’t think we should. For a man, for example, after God and family, his life is defined by what he does for work.

Working, whether doing home “work” in the seventh grade, making a difference in the lives of your senior peers by volunteering to teach them something you know about in OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes—we have one here in Tuscaloosa for example that meets at UA), driving your eighteen wheeler across the country, teaching a Sunday School class, or programming a new app in your twenties, is a part of our lives that often determines what kind of a person we are, or will be, or how we remain productive and happy in our later years.

Work, in fact, is central to our existence as social, political, economic, and cultural beings, both individually and collectively. Let me be a bit less fuzzy here as we approach perhaps the most important presidential election year—2020–since the one in 1860. Why we work and what work does for us basically determines who we will vote for and it will determine where this country is headed in the rest of the twenty-first century.

I am going to sound like a troglodyte in country that today seems to be devoted to self, leisure and pleasure, a hedonist paradise with everything for everybody. But as I look around me I see an alarming increase in suicides among young people, a drug epidemic like never before in every street and corner of America, and formulas that tout free everything for everybody, from marijuana to drugs to college, all free and made available to all by a benevolent government led by pied pipers of whatever it is you want, we have it. That there are problems with the above scenario is self-evident to the simplest observer of our lives today. Not to ask—for example—why so many suicides is to ignore siren bells in the night. Something is wrong somewhere, or perhaps everywhere.

You are going to read in future columns not a formula to return to the past—a make-America-great-again promise, or the equally appealing, at least to some, a paradise of socialism where equality and sharing of the wealth reigns. Rather, let’s examine how Christianity informs us not only of its greatest gift to humanity,–salvation through faith in Jesus Christ– but also how we formed into who we are through our work, our attitudes toward work, our expectations of our work, or, again, what do we work for?

Sometime in the next few weeks let’s begin a modest trip through what Christianity teaches us about work, a formula if you will, for living—with respect to work and wealth—within the will of God. I think it may suggest to all of us on how to prepare to vote in 2020.

Our first column will be on some favorite subjects of us all: greed and happiness. Tune in.

Published as “Work brings fulfillment to our lives,” May 26, 2019 in The Tuscaloosa News.