Remember Haydn’s 104 symphonies. Not all of them
were great. But there were 104 of them.
– Raymond Carver¹
Americans have a reputation for being workaholics. This makes me feel patriotic. It is Labor Day, presumably a day off from work in honor of work, yet I am eager to get some work completed today free from meetings and the steady onslaught of email. I may have a problem.
The term “work ethic” implies that there is some moral element to work, a right and a wrong if you will, and I’m not exactly sure who has cornered the market on figuring that out. I’m pretty sure that it isn’t me.
A couple years back Pepperdine Law hosted a lunchtime presentation featuring Lieutenant General Flora D. Darpino, the thirty-ninth Judge Advocate General (“JAG”) of the United States Army, and the first female to hold that prestigious post. From her impressive presentation, what stuck with me most was her dislike for the phrase “work-life balance”—an implication that (a) work and life are mutually exclusive; and (b) navigating the two involves walking a precarious tightrope. Lt. Gen. Darpino argued that we just have “life” and that work is simply one of its many components. I liked that a lot.
I like work. So much that I do too much of it sometimes. The idea of retirement, with no disrespect for those who enjoy it nor to those who long for it, never has appealed to me. I want to keep contributing to this old world as long as possible. To be productive. To create.
I’ll write about the need to rest on some other day, but today, in honor of Labor Day, I celebrate work. May those of us blessed to have it do it well.
¹ Excerpted from His Bathrobe Pockets Stuffed with Notes by Raymond Carver, in A New Path to the Waterfall (1989).