Find Work, by Rhina P. Espaillat
Life’s little duties absorb us, occupy us. They give us something to do. These daily chores are necessary, but are they sufficient? They can fill the time allotted. They distract. They isolate. They need to be done, but at what cost? I was raised to work hard, to work well…a Calvinist precision that would be rewarded in this world and in the next. In Rhina P. Espaillat’s poem, work is the salve, the inoculation against grief. In answering grief, work may have healing power. Life’s little duties anchor us and reinforce a sense of the ordinary or normal. Life goes on. Work can be a source of composure. But work may also be a negative escape, an excuse to avoid what is painful—an insulation against grief.
Today is International Workers’ day, a checkered holiday which, though it began in the United States, is not observed in the US on this day. As we celebrate the dignity of work and of workers at a time when many are out of work, we do well to reflect on the ways in which work has become an idol, a false object of worship. Something necessary, but not sufficient for human flourishing. When we work our fingers to the bone, we have no flesh to live. What is your relationship to work? What does your work reveal, or conceal?
Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado