Sabbath Poems, 1999, IX
The incarnate Word is with us,
is still speaking, is present
always, yet leaves no sign
but everything that is.
[w.berry. &&& grateful for friends.]
"This local, human scale not only enables us to imagine the purpose our work is serving, but it also makes our work more communal and thus improves the quality of our work. When we can see the results of our work on those we live with and love—when our work either serves them or harms them—we will work with greater care, particularly when, like Benedictine monks, we don’t have the option of moving away to escape the consequences of sloppy work. Work done within a household is responsible because it is able to respond to its effects and correct its mistakes. Good work is adapted to its context; it is particular in its care for its object and beneficiaries. (…) Unfortunately, as Berry notes, “Much modern work is done in academic or professional or industrial or electronic enclosures. The work is thus enclosed in order to achieve a space of separation between the workers and the effects of their work. The enclosure permits the workers to think they are working nowhere or anywhere – in their careers or specialties, perhaps, or in ‘cyberspace’” (“Going to Work” 33, emphasis added). (…) /// (…) Yet if we’re going to work within a human scale, we’re going to have to do more diverse work; in each household or neighborhood there are too many different tasks and too few workers to have each one done by a specialized expert. Working within local economies will require our work to grow more complex, more diverse, and more widely accountable to our lives. In a monastic community, each person takes on responsibility for some frustrating tasks—doing the dishes, taking out the trash, etc.—but each also participates in the tasks of prayer, and contributes their unique vocation or craft to the life of the community. This integrated, holistic mode of living combats overspecialization and can contribute to a more healthy life where we work with and for those we love and where our household is strengthened by this cooperation. (…) /// (…) But such an integrated economy will require us all to get our hands dirty. I’m afraid college is often viewed as a ticket out of manual labor: if I go to college, then I don’t have to work with my hands anymore. But why would we want to stop working with our hands? Manual labor enables us to relate to the world in more intimate, precise ways than we can if we use only our intellects. (…) This is why a good teacher doesn’t just have you read a book about biology and then give you a passing grade. She has you read a book, and then she has you work with the material, applying it to new questions, or doing experiments based on it. We have to play, to manipulate, to work with knowledge in order to deepen our understanding. The result of this more intimate knowledge is that we are able to care better for those around us. We are less sloppy, less removed from our place. And this intimate knowledge prepares us to participate in restorative, caring work, work that shares in God’s work.” (“Imagining Healthy Work: Why We all Have to Become Monks,” Jeffrey Bilbro).
"Here’s an axiom that’s central to the book: Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering. That applies on every level of life. When individuals don’t know what to do with their suffering, they do violence to others or themselves — through substance abuse and extreme overwork, for example. When nations don’t know what to do with their suffering, as with the U.S. after 9/11, they go to war." (…) "I’d say the main rule is to turn toward honest, open inquiry rooted in simple respect. Say, in effect, “Tell me something that will help me understand you, your life, your worldview, and where your convictions come from.” The more we learn about other people’s stories, the less possible it is for us to dislike them, distrust them, or dismiss them. Animosities are unraveling the fabric of our civic society, degrading democracy’s infrastructure. Anything we can do to help people form relational “habits of the heart” — to borrow an idea from nineteenth-century political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville — will help." (…)
"Faithfulness. That’s what it takes to stand in the tragic gap. Faithfulness first, effectiveness second. And when people are faithful to a task, they often become more effective at it as well."
"Over a ten-year period this chipped away at my sense that I was somehow better or more deserving. I’m not going to claim it’s completely gone. A sense of entitlement is hard to lose in a society that’s designed to work best for people like me." (…) "Two thousand years ago Rabbi Hillel asked three questions that remain worth asking: “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”"
"Gossip can help us give a name to ourselves" & "It’s not that I don’t care about what’s going on in the world. It’s just that I think it’s important to be able to see it through the eyes of people in my community…" ("Gossip column," KVG-R, Catapult Magazine).