Labor of Love
I’ve never been good at celebrating Labor Day. You’re supposed to not work on Labor Day, and l like to work, so I worked. Yet I got to thinking how it is no coincidence that the word we use to describe our daily, bread-making work is the same word used to describe the process of delivering a child into the world.
All work is creation. A friend of mine who is a writer is visiting this weekend. My friend’s father is a very successful businessman who built his very successful business from nothing to feed and house his wife and seven children. My friend, who loves his father very much, has suffered some over the years accepting the difference between his father’s idea of work and the work that is writing.
This is not an unusual position for an artist to find him or herself in. The parent wants the child to be happy, but the parent wants the child to be safe, and the practical route always seems the safest, and art can sometimes seem impractical. But in the end, there is no place safer than our own happiness, whether that happiness is found building a business from nothing or starting a story from nothing.
It is never comfortable to justify what you do as work to another person, particularly if that other person is your parent. Yet I think the quickest route to understanding is to turn this problem around and remember that the businessman is an artist too. The businessman starts from nothing and makes decisions every day, decisions that lead to more decisions until one day where there was an empty storefront there is now hardware store, or a drycleaners, or an insurance company.
To the businessman, business is practical because the act of creating a business makes him happy. There is nothing practical about doing work that brings you no happiness. Just like the mother giving birth, all labor should ideally be a labor of love. Love is the most practical thing in the world because everything it makes is worthwhile and wanted and needed and nothing you make out of love can ever be wasted.