RSS Feed

Tag Archives: The Real Work

The Real Work

I was laid up for the last few days. I have allergies and this time of the year is always a challenge. I think I picked up a bug to give me a double-whammy. I slept a good part of Friday and Saturday and, on Sunday, was upright for most of the day.

I am not sure if I will post later. While sitting upright and not doing much else on Sunday, this Wendell Berry poem kept poking at me.

Living is paradoxical. Parker Palmer described how this creates tension in living. Just as we think everything is as it should be, something pokes at us and unsettles us, calling on us to begin our real work and commencing the real journey. Being mindful and attentive remind us to be still and look below the surface of what is happening.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

This is Athabasca Falls. The river upstream is quite wide and as it comes around the corner suddenly narrows. In Wendell Berry’s poem, it is impeded and creates a great force that carves out solid granite.

The Real Work

I found it interesting that as I searched for a poem I typed in the words The Real Work by Wendell Berry. As Google anticipated, another search emerged: The Real Work by Gary Snyder. This book of essays emerged from a series of interviews and talks Snyder conducted over several years.

Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder are writers, environmentalists and farmers who live in Kentucky and California respectively. Together, they wrote a book called Distant Neighbours and shared their views about the real work they undertook as writers, environmentalists, and farmers. How each of them understood and wrote about real work echoed the other.

Real work happens not when we find ourselves going through the work aimlessly and mindlessly. It emerges when obstacles arise and we are mindful and attentive in our work. It holds our interest through baffling us and our being unsure of what to do next. As we work thoughtfully and our mind is employed in meaningful acts, our work sings like an impeded stream and makes us whole. It is like we our speaking through our work and its meaning to us.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

%d bloggers like this: