BY: Nina Cashman
There’s an old saying that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. About ten years ago, someone gave me an old copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. They must have known that I was a student of philosophy, not to mention, noticed that I’m one of those people, love ‘em or hate ‘em, who’d prefer a discussion of deep thinking and metaphysics, over themes of pop-culture, sports, or weather… anytime.
This person must have also sensed my inevitable appreciation for the wisdom of this powerful poet, philosopher and artist from Lebanon, who lived from 1883 – 1931. And, she couldn’t have been more perceptive and correct in her thinking. Given the reaction brought upon my entire body as I read Gibran’s words, it’s surprising that my encounter with his wisdom was so delayed. I only picked-up The Prophet two weeks ago, during my toddlers’ naptime when I had a sudden urge to pull the old manuscript down from my bookshelf, and read it in an hour and a half’s sitting, almost a decade after it was given to me.
For whatever reason, I suppose I wasn’t ready to appreciate the words of Gibran until this point in my life. And, for whatever reason, my appreciation is so great that I’d like to share a portion of his wisdom with you now.
One of the sections of The Prophet is “On Work.” With pure eloquence, Gibran touches upon a multitude of truths that we could all stand to remember, as we consider our careers and the “work” we put into the world each and every day.
Here’s what I’ve learned from Gibran “on work:”
1) Work is our connection with humanity and life – it joins us with other people and aids us to collaborate and contribute our efforts, in meaningful ways, to impact our surroundings and the world at large.
2) It’s easy to get caught-up in the idea that hard work and labor are a burden to our lives, rather than viewing opportunities to work as a gifted playing field for us to develop our highest potentials, and experience new perspectives with people we may not otherwise ever know.
3) Work is also commonly viewed as purely a means to an end, or a place to merely pick-up a paycheck in order to put food on the table. While this is a clear and necessary benefit of much work, our life’s work is meant to allow us to express and manifest our purposes here on Earth. And, once we do that, the rewards are bound to match our efforts.
4) Hard work is one of the best remedies for overcoming thoughts of personal deficiencies and fear. Why? Again, because it connects us with others in meaningful ways, and gets us out of our own heads through participation with the living, while experiencing the benefits of tangible results.
5) To really love yourself, you need to know yourself. You can only know yourself if you are in touch with your own personal value and purpose. Work provides us with a perfect platform for us to contribute our value and notice our own contributions and self worth. And, the development of purpose is paced by the level of effort we are willing to put forth on its behalf.
6) Life can get really boring when you don’t have enthusiasm or passion for your work. Whether we are stay-at-home moms & dads, career professionals, artists or outdoor laborers, we simply spend too much time contributing our work to the planet, not to find some level of love from our efforts.
7) Acquiring knowledge requires both urge and a level of effort, or yes, work. In other words, applying ourselves as curious students to learn whatever we don’t already know is a necessary function of getting what we want. Also, sitting on high pedestals and “willing things to the universe” without any backup of effort, rarely results in much.
8) Finding love in our work may require us to show-up differently and search for new ways to grow, develop and expand ourselves with whatever we do each day. Quite often, it’s not the job that is no longer serving you, but you who has chosen not to serve the job with your whole heart and passion. What would happen if you did?
9) If you are truly indifferent towards your work, then it’s worth finding new work that is more aligned with the hidden urges and desires that inevitably reside inside of you.
10) Love blossoms from hard work and effort, regardless of the title and pay scale. And, ironically, opportunities for more interesting responsibilities, higher titles and pay, all grow from the rich soils of loving what you do, no matter what you do. Simply put, people notice when you pour your passions into your work and they are more prone to acknowledge work produced from a place of passion, versus indifference.
11) You either find ways to love what you do, or the outcome of all your efforts will get you stuck in an endless cycle of futile indifference, which only leads to long-term stress, resentment and unhappiness.
12) When you take note of your own indifference or resentment towards your work, assign yourself the first new job of scheduling time with people who exemplify passion for their work and open your eyes to a new perspective, which in Gibran’s words, helps you realize that “work is love made visible.”
That’s a lot of wisdom gained from one short section of Gibran’s timeless work. Check it out for yourself and see what other hidden gems of wisdom strike a chord with you. My favorite parts are highlighted in bold text : ). Enjoy!
By Kahlil Gibran
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
Which of you would be reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?
Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfill a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.
But if you in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow shall wash away that which is written.
You have been told also that life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save where there is urge,
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.
Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, “He who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is nobler than he who ploughs the soil.
And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet.”
But I say, not in sleep but in the over-wakefulness of noontide, that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;
And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.
Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.
Nina Cashman left the corporate marketing world in October of 2014 to pursue the world of people marketing. Now, she’s paving her own trail as a professional coach who specializes in career growth and development, leadership and team building, as well as individual branding through her company, Pave Your Way. www.paveyourway.com