Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure

Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure

Work as necessity.

Work as vocation.

Work as expression of our deepest selves.

In a series of lyrical essays, author Nancy J. Nordenson explores the nature of work as a place of intersection between the practical and the spiritual. She does this in language so gorgeous, it’s tempting to linger over each image and turn of phrase. Luckily the subject matter pulls the reader through.

“Work” in Nordenson’s view, is a mutable concept, a series of competing imperatives that exert a constant push-pull between the life we want and the one we end up with. Responsibility vs. freedom. The individual vs. the collective. Creativity vs. practicality. There’s no escape from this whirl of duality, only an ever-shifting accommodation. So much of the meaning of what we do is in the DOING, the figuring things out, the balancing of our needs and our desires.

Nordenson grounds her spiritual and philosophical exploration firmly in the practical using stories from her own work life and that of her husband–the ups and the downs–to demonstrate that one still must make a life even as they are “making do,” and how so much of our day-to-day contentment is a matter of knowing what is in our control and what it not. Negotiating where we can. Accepting what cannot be negotiated. Sometimes acceptance might mean getting on with an imperfect situation, or it might mean cutting our losses.

On a personal level, the concept that most resonated for me was that when it comes to human effort, value and compensation often have very little to do with one another. This is a pretty radical assertion in a culture that places so much emphasis the bottom line and too readily confuses a person’s worth with their annual income even as the notion job security goes the way of the dinosaurs.

Finding Livelihood argues that we–and our work–are so much more than the amount of our pay check.