Work: Lessons from a Time of Pandemic

In yesterday’s meditation we considered how the current pandemic is awakening us to work and hopefully to purifying our love of work and workers and equality between them.  For many people of course it is a scary moment because they are out of work (33 million last count).  A job is necessary, we all have to live and pay our bills and support our families and communities. 

The anxiety of paying bills. Photographer unknown; from

The mystics are champions of our inner work and at infusing work with being, and values, and love.  As John of the Cross reminded us in yesterday’s essay, we give our heart and soul at work.  But it all comes from Love.  “My occupation: Love.  It’s all I do.”

We are considering work anew because a crisis can lay bare the truth of which work and workers we really value and which we take for granted or disrespect…..until they are needed.  A value-shakeup is in order not unlike that named by Howard Thurman, who said we sometimes become “stripped to the literal substance of ourselves before God.”  He is alerting us to the depths of human work.

Milwaukee public school teachers, parents, students and supporters picket outside MPS administration building in Milwaukee to protest yet another round of funding cuts to K-12 schools. Photo by Charles Edward Miller on Wikimedia Commons.

When it comes to reconsidering work during this pandemic, a good example might be the work of teachers.  How important is teaching?  How has your life been effected and directed by good teachers?  Yet how does our culture currently respect teachers? 

I know teachers who have to pay for their students’ crayons and paper and books.  I know many teachers who must take on second jobs to survive. Now that parents are at home trying to teach their kids, very likely a new respect for teaching may result.  One would hope a smart and just society would wake up to the way teachers are treated and rewarded in our culture.  How important are teachers?  Maybe the current crisis will remind us.

Cleaners sanitize a waiting room floor. Photo by Tedward Quinn on Unsplash.

As it will hopefully about farmers and those who grow our food; and distributors; and grocery store managers and stockers and check-out people.  And sanitation workers and janitors and Oh! so many that assist the making up of community. 

How we need one another—all our workers!  

Let  us remember that the very word community derives form two Latin words that mean sharing a common task together. 

It takes a village to share our common tasks, sustain a human community and to sustain in it the context of the larger Earth community.

The worldwide, 3500-member “Couch Choir” sings to honor Mother’s Day with a message of world peace.

It takes such a variety of skills and knowledge to make life happen and to make life livable and worthy of our shared dignity.  Good work brings the best out of all of us for it demands generosity and sacrifice and calls forth our powers of love and caring, whether we be doctor or office worker, clerk or lawyer, nurse or farmer, bus driver or police officer, banker or politician, artist or imam.

See Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time, pp. 112, 296-312.

Banner Image: “I AM 2018 50th Anniversary of Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and March: the American Federation of Government Employees joined hundreds of community activists for a rally featuring top musical talent, civil rights activists, labor leaders, faith leaders and elected leaders to kick off the historic march to honor the struggle and sacrifice of the Memphis Sanitation Workers.” Photo by Chelsea Bland for AFGE on Flickr.

Queries for Contemplation

What are you learning from work and from unemployment at this critical moment in our history?  Be with the awareness that community means our sharing of a common task. What are those common tasks that call us today?

Recommended Reading

Natural Grace: Dialogues on Creation, Darkness, and the Soul in Spirituality and Science 
by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake

Natural Grace, a 208 page inspired dialogue between theologian Matthew Fox and scientist Rupert Sheldrake, unites wisdom and knowledge from unconventional angles. Considering themselves heretics in their own fields, Matthew and Rupert engage the conversation from postmodern and post-postmodern perspectives, deconstructing both religion and science—while setting the foundation for a new emerging worldview. Having outgrown the paradigms in which they were raised, both Fox and Sheldrake see it as part of their life missions to share the natural synthesis of spirituality and science rooted in a paradigm of evolutionary cosmology.

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3 thoughts on “Work: Lessons from a Time of Pandemic”

  1. Avatar

    Matt Fox has spoken at my Oklahoma City church, pastored by his student/graduate Rev. Kayla Bonewell (Church of the Open Arms UCC.)

    At our weekly public Vigil For Earth, launched and held weekly since March, 2019, we invoke the promise/pledge of Matt’s “Order of the Sacred Earth” (Vigil is now on ZOOM, of course.)

    I APPEAL TO MATT to connect Our Promise/Pledge to do all we can for Earth with the opportunities we have this year to elect environmental champions at all levels when we vote. Protecting Mother Earth requires government officials TAKE ACTION to implement policies to protect life on Earth.

    Blessings, – – Nathaniel Batchelder at The Peace House in Oklahoma City – 5/13/20

  2. Avatar

    Behavior for the common good is to be striven for–enlightened self interest, if no spiritual motivation can be invoked. And yet, and yet, the message and the lesson do not seem to be getting through to enough people very clearly. The human ability to deny is staggering. I pray that enough of us wake up to be the critical mass that can help bring good fruits out of all our good work.

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