Real Work

The other day, Katherine mentioned that “it’s so much work” to tag me in a photo on Instagram and then go to Facebook and tag me there. Katherine, who is a peace-love yogi who walks her talk and let’s nothing bother her.

“Really?” I said. “That’s work?”

Compared to yoga and the real work we do ever day – battling our inner demons, struggling to surmount our ego, getting out of our comfort zone and clearing the karmas from earlier in life or from generations of our families – I’d say that tagging on two social media platforms is not really work.

She agreed and we laughed.

The real work is not showing up at the office, finishing assignments or taking care of clients. It’s not feeding the children, grocery-shopping, making the beds or doing the laundry.

The real work is digging deep and getting to know your Self. Figuring out why you’re here in this body, in this lifetime, on this planet. What is your unique contribution to the world, and are you on the path to make it?

Or are you simply plodding along a proscribed path, doing the job you have and paying the bills and eking out a rather boring, uninspiring, miserable life?

See what I mean?

The real work is so much deeper, much harder, but you can’t even see it. You may not even realize how much work you have to do.

I’d like to share with you one of my favorite poems, by one of my favorite poets, on What Work Is. Greater people than I have pondered this question, but I deeply believe that what we call work back home in Detroit doesn’t even come close to the true meaning of work.

What Work Is
by Philip Levine

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is–if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.

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One Response to Real Work

  1. Beverly Chayet says:

    Philip Levine was a year or two ahead of me at Central High School. I too appreciate his work!

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