As Labor Day Comes to a Close

September 5, 2011

” . . . the consummation of work lies not only in what we have done, but who we have become while accomplishing the task.”
— David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea:  Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity

The perfect book for reading on the Labor Day holiday

The United States established a Labor Day holiday in 1894 in tribute to the contributions of workers to the nation’s prosperity and well-being.  I have been slowly cleaning out my bookshelves, and today by chance pulled out David Whyte’s book about the meaning of work.  It was the perfect book to read on Labor Day.

I liked what Whyte had to say about reinvigorating and reimagining our work so that it does not starve our spirits.  He says, ” . . . work is not a static endpoint or a mere exercise in providing, but a journey and a pilgrimage in which core elements of our being are tested in the world.”  He urges us not to settle for anything less than work that wholeheartedly engages us.

I also liked Whyte’s acknowledgment of the contributions of those workers who came before us.  He says, “We would stand barely a chance in the world if we did not rely from cradle to grave on what has been handed down from those who have lived and worked before us.  From agriculture to health care, from education to sanitation, we are the recipients of generations of toil. . . . Whatever our success at work, in the financial markets, or in the virtual worlds now being born, we are all in the gift of much older work.”

I think I’ll take a few minutes to think, with gratitude, of all those whose work has shaped my life to this point.  Happy Labor Day!

3 Responses to “As Labor Day Comes to a Close”


  1. Maybe one day – you will put together a collection of quotes. Or write a book of essays?

    ‘We are all in the gift of much older work’.


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