We’re now moving into the sixth month of quarantine, and it’s looking more and more like the world isn’t going to snap back to the way it was before all of this craziness started.
I’m starting to think that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because some of the stuff going on before COVID-19 was less than desirable. For instance, I cringe when I think about all the time I used to spend commuting in my car. I don’t think I can ever go back to that soul-sucking grind.
Multiple sclerosis was the same way: It stopped me in my tracks and compelled me to analyze my life. Knocked flat on my back, I was finally faced with the truth that things had to change.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly working my way through Wendell Berry’s “The Unsettling of America.” In it, Berry discusses farming, stewarding the earth well, and the value of rest, work, and intentionality.
In the first chapter, Berry analyzes our attitude toward work. He writes, “The growth of the exploiters’ revolution on this continent has been accompanied by the growth of the idea that work is beneath human dignity, particularly any form of hand work. We have made it our overriding ambition to escape work, and as a consequence have debased work until it is fit only to escape from.”
I couldn’t help but be struck by that. I know that I’ve dodged yard work and outsourced outdoor tasks I deemed “menial” to others because I wasn’t invested enough to perform them myself. For the most part, we no longer grow our own food or tend our own land beyond the superficial aspects of “curb appeal.” We’ve lost our connection to rhythms and seasons of life, forever caught up in our human busyness — a cycle both perpetual and utterly wearisome.
We know how to work according to our paltry definition of it. We are indeed busy little bees zipping from one task to another. But how much of that effort is beneficial to our souls? And how much of it is disconnecting us from the good earth beneath our feet and unmaking our best, truest, most human selves?
Solomon wrote in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes in the Bible that God “has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yes so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-15).
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