Beanery Online Literary Magazine

August 30, 2008

LABOR AND LABOR DAY

BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE
LABOR AND LABOR DAY
JOSEPH F. STIERHEIM

I asked two friends to define the word “Labor.” One simply said it had a negative connotation. The other gave a more complete definition. “Labor,” she said, “is something that one doesn’t like but has to do in order to make money and/or for survival.” My second question was harder to answer. “Then why,” I asked, “do we have a special day to celebrate labor?”  Neither of them really did answer that question although they finally decided that they supposed anyone who had to engage in labor deserved some kind of recognition for having to do so.

Years ago I heard a saying that has stuck with me and of which I have become very fond. That saying is: “The creation of something of beauty and/or use is the highest endeavor of man.” In order to create something, man uses the tools he has, and those tools are his mind and his hands. The products of those tools are many. They range from a masterpiece by a great artist to the work of a master carpenter to a device produced by an inventor to the results of the efforts of a noted chef to a simple dinner set before a family. I believe that these acts of creation can legitimately be called “labor.” And the value of that labor cannot be judged by whether or not one gets one’s hands dirty in the process.

Nor is the worth of that labor dependent upon the cash value of the product. Over and above this, there is joy in this labor. Good, productive labor results in a satisfaction that can be achieved in no other way. I am very much aware of that fact. I have been involved all my life with work using both my mind and my hands. One of my chief joys has been working on homes—both homes for myself and homes for others—transforming and renewing old houses into dwellings that are comfortable, attractive and functional. When I acquired a farm, I found the possibilities of this labor expanded—both land and buildings that were in need of care and effort. And I gained so much satisfaction from doing it. Being on a high hill with the warmth of sun, the smell of fresh-mown hay, the swoop of soaring birds, and the sight of woods and fields stretching for miles around me were some of the happiest moments of my life.

I became aware of how valuable to me those moments were when, due to bad health, I could no longer do that labor. That was a time of great stress for me—a time of depression. But from that time I learned lessons, valuable lessons. I learned that labor, good labor, is a necessity, but not because of the fact that it produces money. It is necessary because it establishes the worth of the person doing the labor—establishes that value for him. Before a person can truly consider himself to be of worth, he must produce something that he considers to be of worth.

That is the true value of labor: that man, through his own efforts and by use of the tools which the universe has provided him, can contribute to that universe and to his fellow men something that is truly of value. And that is the labor that we should commemorate and celebrate on Labor Day. It is not the labor that we dislike and would rather avoid that we celebrate, but the labor that brings us pride—pride in ourselves and pride in the efforts of mankind.

ADDITIONAL READING:

IN DEFENSE OF THE OLDER EMPLOYEE

MY HAPPY PLACE

FROM THE BASTILLE TO CINDERELLA

AND NOW, THE FORECAST

THE EMPEROR IS NAKED

CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

KEEPING PEACE IN SOUTH AFRICA Part 1

www.peacepuzzle.blogspot.com

DAVID PAGE: Notes from St. David’s Writer’s Conference

FLASHY MOON EXPLOSIONS

Childish Characteristics

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