16 August 2007

What's My Line Again?

What constitutes work? Is it the paycheck? The sweat on your brow? Does it allude to a dislike of the task?

I struggle with this question because of my current situation. I work, right? I teach flute and piano lessons. I write. I speak. But between the part-time music teaching, the speaking gigs, and the odd writing or editing jobs (and when I saw odd, I mean odd), I can have as much to write off in taxes as I claim in income.

Which makes me feel like I don't work.

Merriam-Webster had 10 answers with work used as a transitive verb, most with their a's and b's and c's, plus 7 more for the intransitive use. And then there are the definitions of work as a noun.

Here's the number 1 answer for work used intransitively:

1 a : to exert oneself physically or mentally especially in sustained effort for a purpose or under compulsion or necessity b : to perform or carry through a task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations c : to perform work or fulfill duties regularly for wages or salary

"A" is certainly true. I exert myself. There are sustained efforts and a purpose, and yes, under compulsion, I'd even say in the sense of a writer has to write. "B" is true as well. I continuously repeat the operation of typing the keys or telling my students to sit up straight, curve their fingers, focus their embouchure. "C"--well, that's the one I get stuck on. My music teaching - check. My speaking - mostly yes. My writing - huh? It's rare at this stage in the game that I get paid for doing what I do. I hope someday I'll get paid for it, not because the paycheck allures me but because that means getting to the next stage, a regular (keyword) paycheck for writing.

In the Bible, the English word "work" is used approximately 350 times. Occupation, service, workmanship; God's work in creation, a craftsman's work on the temple, Jacob's work for Laban, the Proverbs 31 Woman's work (which is plenty--have you read everything she does? makes me want to take a nap), skillful work, and work to be enjoyed (according to the author of Ecclesiastes), the good work that Christians are to do--the work which God has prepared for us and which is coupled with love, the work that God the Creator and Redeemer does inside of us, the work that puts food on our tables.

I don't want to make too many crosses here, say that they are all related. But a few of these struck me, like the craftsman's work on the temple or the songwriter's work because in that sense, my writing is work. Or the work to be enjoyed because yes, I enjoy my work, all of it. Or the good work that Christians are to do. What does that have to do with occupation?

That work is more than occupation because it infiltrates all of our lives, our care of our families, our interactions with our neighbors, our giving to the poor. But it is part of our occupation in that our occupation is a work of the Lord and to the Lord, no matter what man sees in it, no matter if man claims it lowly, like he may a janitor's position (and let me tell you from experience, that is some hard work there), or if man claims it worthy of millions of dollars, like a CEO of Microsoft. Or if man claims it noble but unworthy of mucho money, like the artist. No matter, it is worthy to be used by God.

So do I work? 2 out of 3 dentists say yes, and that's good enough for me.


Karmyn R said...

By these definitions - then work also includes the bum who sits on the street corner and holds up his "need money" sign.

I think the definition of work should have something about "adding value" in there. However - that would mean that doing dishes added value...and I don't know if it does.

Willowtree said...

Whatever you call it, it's just plain nasty.

Hey, I like the new masthead. Is that Hebrew?

Heather said...

Thx, Peter. That is Hebrew. My friend designed the logo thing-a-ma-jig, and my husband helped me put it all together. I'm a writer and musician, so visual is not my strong suit.

Danica/Dream said...

You work harder than me, that's for sure. :)

Michelle Pendergrass said...

Ooohhh I like the new header too!!!

I like it a lot!!

Real Live Preacher said...

Work is a dangerous thing in our world. I know that I have a completely unhealthy sense that all of my worth is wrapped up in what I do for a living. Well, not all of it but a LOT.

Don't know how to be healthier about that right now. Wish I was.

Robin said...

Why didn't I ask about your header, lol? I wondered, just didn't ask (glad Peter did). Aesthetically appealing ;).

Work is a four-letter word.

Then again, so is love.