Each year, we set aside a day to celebrate an aspect of our lives whose importance is often underestimated, or even badly misunderstood. On Labor Day, we’re meant to commemorate work, as well as those of us who do it, and all who have done it long before us. What we’re being called upon to celebrate isn’t a necessary evil – an unfortunate and arduous requirement for simply gaining the resources it takes to live in an increasingly costly world. Work isn’t the sort of thing we can and perhaps should regret every other day of the year, but then get away from it to, paradoxically, raise a glass and praise it for just one twenty-four hour period, annually. We’re meant to be celebrating on this day a good thing, even a great thing, that’s worth celebrating on every day.
Aristotle taught us long ago that we are all essentially goal-oriented beings, and that this facet of our nature is deeply connected both with individual happiness, as well as with what we often think of as the living of a good life. We all need things to do, work to accomplish, and goals to achieve. Without some form of work, whether externally compensated or not, we just can’t flourish in the fullness of our nature.
At its best, work is even a spiritual activity. It’s an expression of our souls into the world around us, an endeavor that ideally allows us to improve some aspect of the world, however slightly, on each day that we labor. And, of course, in working to enrich the world, we deepen and enrich ourselves in a great variety of inner ways, regardless of outer consequences. Through our work, we can become wiser, more insightful, hardier, and more capable. We can enlarge our capacities, expand our relationships, and deepen our sense of ourselves.
The good work of any person benefits, however indirectly, every person by improving the stage on which we all act out our individual dramas. We’re, all of us, connected, even though that’s a truth whose reality is sometimes hard to detect. But it’s a truth that allows our work to have an impact far beyond what we might realize, on any given day. And that’s something to be celebrated, indeed.
Happy Labor Day!