AnOldFarmer

“The gods keep livelihood hidden from men. Otherwise a day’s labor could bring man enough to last a whole year with no more work.” Hesiod, Works and Days

In both biblical and ancient Greek accounts, work is something of an enigma. Having an aspect of punishment, it is nevertheless a blessing and a gift. For Hesiod the very means of living have been hidden in the soil of the dark earth, only to be retrieved by relentless toil. It is somehow part of a heavenly plan that our livelihood requires much work, ongoing and toilsome.

Work can wear you down; it can even break you. Of necessity it requires an expenditure of energy, energy that in some sense goes forth not to return. Perhaps a sure sign of the passing of youth is when you start to realize: I simply can’t do this forever; there is only so much work in me. It is not a pleasant realization, especially when accompanied by the realization that one’s dependence on work will not cease. Not in this life. But then again, all that I have, even my own ability to work, has been given to me by the work of others. I can be grateful that for some length of time I have the privilege of giving to others through my work. That will come to an end, all in due time.

There is perhaps no more telling sign of a person’s character than his willingness to work: silently, relentlessly, contentedly. In some important sense work makes a man. But then again, it is the man that makes the work, and he shows who he is by his work. To our work we should bring our deepest convictions. In the country song “Walkin’ in High Cotton,” a man looks back on growing up during hard times: “When Sunday mornings rolled around, we dressed up in hand-me-downs, just in time to gather with the church. Sometimes I think how long it’s been, and how it impressed me then, it was the only day my Daddy wouldn’t work.”

A family’s shared work—relentless and toilsome—can be an expression of and imbued with their love for one another, and their confidence in the meaning of life. Such a family is indeed walking in high cotton, making a living together. They are not broken, even in very hard times.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

Previous articleIowa Conference on Presidential Politics
Next articleLocalist Linkfest
John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.

1 COMMENT

Comments are closed.