Musings from Laura Ingalls Wilder, August 1920
The whole world was a deep, dark blue, for I had waked with a grouch that morning. While blue is without a doubt a heavenly color, it is better in the skies than in one's mind; for when the blues descend upon a poor mortal on earth, life seems far from being worth the living.
I didn't want to help with the chores; I hated to get breakfast; and the prospect of doing up the morning's work afterward was positively revolting. Beginning the usual round of duties --under protest-- I had a great many thoughts about work and none of them was complimentary to the habit. But presently my mind took a wider range and became less personal as applied to the day just beginning.
First I remembered the old, old labor law, "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of The Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work." (Exodus 20:9-10)
It used to be impressed upon us as most important that we must rest on the seventh day. This doesn't seem to be necessary any longer. We may not, "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy" but we'll not forget to stop working. With our present attitude toward work, the emphasis should be put upon "Six days shalt thou labor" and if we stick it out and work the six days, we will rest on the seventh without any arguing. Given half a chance, we will take Saturday off also and any other day or part of a day we can manage to sneak, besides which the length of a work day is shrinking and shrinking for everyone except farmers, and they are hoping to shorten theirs.
But really the old way was best, for it takes about six days of work to give just the right flavor to a
day off. As I thought of all these things, insensibly, my ideas about work changed. I remembered the times of enforced idleness when recovering from an illness and how I longed to be busily at work again. Also I recollected a week of vacation that I once devoted to pleasure during which I suffered more than the weariness of working while I had none of it's satisfaction. For there is a great satisfaction in work well done, the thrill of success in a task accomplished.
I got the thrill at the moment that my kind reached the climax. The separator was washed. It is a job that I especially dislike, but while my mind had been busy far afield, my hands had performed their accustomed task with none of the usual sense of unpleasantness, showing that, after all, it is not so much the work we do with our bodies that makes us tired and dissatisfied as the work we do with our mind.
We have been, for so long, thinking of labor as a curse upon man that, because of our persistently inking of it as such, it has very nearly become so.
There has always been a great deal of misplaced pity for Adam because of his sentence to hard labor for life when really that was all that saved him after he was deported from paradise, and it is the only thing that has kept his descendants as safe and sane even as they are.
There is nothing wrong with God's plan that man should earn his bread by the sweat ofhis brow. The wrong is in our own position only. In trying to shirk while we "let George do it," we bring upon ourselves our own punishment; for in the attitude we take toward our work, we make of it a burden instead if the blessing it might be.
Work is like other good things in that it should not be indulged in to excess, but a reasonable amount that is of value to one's self and to the world, as is any honest, well-directed labor, need never descend into drudgery.
It is a tonic and an inspiration and a reward unto itself. For the sweetness of life lies in usefulness like honey deep in the heart of a clover bloom.