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Good Works

Work is also a kind of prayer. Except whereas prayer casts off into the infinite, work is evident in the immediate. Prayer is powered by
faith, whereas labor is powered by reason and the hands. The two are both sides of the same face of human existence in a universe
structured as it is by energy and matter. Where one appeals to its infinite totality, the other works in the present physical. Thus, when
what we do in our work joins with what we do in our faith, a wonderful virtue is infused into what we accomplish.

Think of the satisfaction we get when we behold some work well done. This could be as simple as washing the floor, or as complex as
building a city. Both lead to a feeling of wholeness with our work, where we could look back upon it and feel good. We then feel that we
could rest awhile and be thankful for the good work done. The mind and hands, or their extensions, had been busy to create what now
exists. Through simple tools and drawings, or through books and computers, or industrial machines and organizational systems, we had
carved or shaped reality in some new way. Of course, we hope our work's success will last for a time; the ancient pyramids of Egypt are
still standing. But even if like a Tibetan mandala of sand which will be brushed aside as soon as it is completed, it is nevertheless an
important contribution to our reality, from us. We did something, here in this immediate place, gave it our physical energy, and for a
moment it existed.

This is not only ego. It is also joy. Ego in fear is not the same as ego in joy, since one pulls away from its faith, and the other embraces
it. One is at odds with its greater reality, and the other is in it. When we work joyfully, happy to be of service or to toil for a given end,
then we are as one with something much bigger than the job. In effect, we are then one with that greater image that has placed us there,
where we are, and what we are doing. It is not by chance that such work is being done, since the mind had already positioned us in its
proximity. And through that tool of the mind, reason, and its extension through the hand, the mind finds its means to accomplish the
given task. It is part and package of the whole deal, we work on what is given to us, and this is already the space and time we occupy by
doing. So it is like a prayer, since what is being done in the here and now, is also being done at the limits of our greater being. When we
do this joyfully, and thankfully, then we are in touch with both. We embrace both, and they embrace us in return. They become
reflected in the ego's joyfulness with the work done.

Of course, this makes us happy. If it did not, then something was wrong. There must be joy in our labor, and if we are free individuals
able to seek the labor we wish to do, then that joy comes naturally. Images of smiling peasants working cheerfully, singing in the fields
come to mind. Obviously, if we are not free, but rather in bondage, then the labor will not likely offer us much joy. Instead, then we will
feel the pain of being divorced from who we are. There, the ego will suffer and happiness becomes illusive. Still, in our labors we may
offer thanks and try to do God's Will, even if we are far removed from the connections that give us joy. If in bondage, we should pray
for our deliverance so that we could once again reconnect with ourselves. But the mind, if it is not damaged, will find ways to do so. And
when it does, its success will surely give it joy.

Most important of all, however, is that work is a kind of giving. Reality gives to us as we give to it. When the seeds planted give us a
crop, both have given. When the potter puts his hands to clay and a vessel emerges, then it is the same. Our gifts are returned with gifts.
And when we give labor to another, then it is also the same. We give to them in exchange for the gifts returned to us. This return gift
may be no more than mere wages, but it could also be a gift of simple joy. We work for the joy of working, only for the return of
satisfaction of a job well done. The gift that flows from that we cannot measure, since it comes from a source that is beyond human
comprehension. Like prayer, it answers to a much greater reason than that we are equipped to understand. As in the realms of angels,
work given freely and joyfully, not given in bondage, has rewards that transcends the immediacy of rational understanding.

Again think of the great works of humankind. Were they not labors of love? Did Michaelangelo calculate how much he will be paid for
his fresco at the Sistine Chapel? Maybe, maybe not. But is there any real monetary value to it? No, it transcends the calculations of
exchange. Same as there is no price that can be put on the suffering of a lone laborer carving stone in winter at the cathedral of Chartre,
since there can be no value placed on what he then felt in his heart, and what he left behind. He was giving as was the tradition to give in
Europe's Medieval times, since giving voluntary labor for the local cathedral was then normal. We gave as best we could, and we reaped
only in our hearts. Nothing was lost, and the gifts that come to us, like answers to prayers, are mysterious and beyond measurement.
Maybe the pyramids were not built by slaves. If nothing else, they are still standing as silent witnesses to the greatness of the human
spirit in the works left behind.

So through the hand, and through the mind, we fashion our world in some greater image of our human being. How we do this in a
spiritual way is then how we are judged not by others, but in the context of a greater Being. To labor for the joy of work is to be one
with that Being, for then it is to give as we do. And that work is a kind of prayer that we perform with our hands. These are the gifts we
offer our world in our work. When they are offered joyfully, and with thanks and humility, then they are the great works of our world.
And like the spoken word, they offer a prayer to God.


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