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Daily Archives: November 29, 2016

To Be of Use

Marge Piercy wrote this poem about what it means to immerse one’s self in one’s life. She does use the word work, which is not always what we immerse ourselves in.

Hans-Georg Gadamer used a German word that means to while over the worth of something. We linger over those things that have meaning to us and make us feel useful in our lives. We do not want those things to end. When we find work that feels like that, we do not want it to end.

Something magical happens when we encounter something worth taking our time with in life. It is like it waits for us and we feel real when we come to know it. When are doing that, we experience being useful and giving back in a very real way.

The people I love the best

jump into work head first

without dallying in the shallows

and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,

the black sleek heads of seals

bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,

who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,

who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge

in the task, who go into the fields to harvest

and work in a row and pass the bags along,

who are not parlor generals and field deserters

but move in a common rhythm

when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.

But the thing worth doing well done

has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,

Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums

but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.

 

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