"The work of the world is common as mud."
By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
Without much need for explanation, we understand the value of effort and admire it. We put examples of common hard work into museums, and we study them in classrooms. It defines who we are. I think poet and author Marge Piercy illustrated it best when she connected "work" to the basic human need to be useful.
In "To Be of Use," Piercy writes:
Work is what is meaningful — creating work and doing good works. The progress that is incremental is self-evident. It does not seek praise or vanity, it exists only to be useful. Piercy continues:
We must consistently create, and that is hard. We must consistently be useful, and that is also hard. We must take actions, that takes great effort. Luck arises from opportunities, opportunities we must create for ourselves. The harder we work, the luckier we'll get. Art doesn't happen from a stroke of a wand but from a thousand brush strokes, until we will creation from the abyss. Whether it is moving a boulder or overcoming ourselves, the magic is in the effort, not in it's ease but in the difficulty overcome. Difficulty is what makes most men and women quit — then what is magical is the person who does not.
The magic is not in the work but in the character of the worker. This is why we admire their work no matter how old it has become, to imagine what sort of person could have created this, and to ask ourselves if we are capable of the same.
We admire their effort at the task at hand. It reminds us of what it is to live and to strive to live. It is who we are as humans beings, our effort not to just try but to continually try harder and in new ways, not just for ourselves but for everyone else. And if we stumble, not only to pick ourselves up but to pick up others, to serve the needs of others, to be of use.
There is much to be learned from the age-old wisdom of work but we can't trace the outlines. To live a fulfilling life, eventually, we must add our own effort. To answer our own question: are we like them?
Useful Companions (Improve Your Education and This Site by Buying a Book):
- Circles on the Water: Selected Poems – Marge Piercy