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Excerpted from Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence Boldt. Copyright 1999 by Laurence Boldt. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"We view work first and foremost as a vehicle of self-expression."

Laurence Boldt,  
Zen and the Art of Making a Living

Part 5

Ironically, science, the pride of the Modern Age, has been at the forefront in exposing the limitations of the machine model. Quantum physics and ecology, for example, have demonstrated that an image of a universe of separate, isolated parts is not a terribly useful way of conceiving of reality. While increasingly outdated, even from a scientific point of view, the legacy of the machine model affects the way we think in a range of subject areas, including our topic, work.

The mechanistic view of the world gave us a set of terms that still affect how we think about work. Work as a concept is "the tread-mill" or "the old grind." Work as action is "cranked out" and "geared up." One's relationship to work is a matter of "fitting in" or of "meshing with." Economies are machines for making jobs. (Incidentally, our word job originates from the Middle English jobbe, meaning "mouthful," and clearly comes from the notion of work as a solution to the feeding problem.) From this perspective, work is a very serious affair, a boring routine, a dull drill. Since this is what people think work is, it's no wonder they want to escape from it.

From an organic view of the world, we get an image of work as living, growing, evolving, creative action. Work comes out of life the way grass grows, the way apple trees "apple." Because human beings are active creatures, they naturally work. That is exactly the point naturally work not work like machines but work as integral parts of nature. Yet human beings are not plants or animals. Our creating is not simply a matter of reproduction. Human beings can ask: "Why to create?" "What to create?" "How to create?" That human beings ask these questions is no less natural than pear trees "pearing" or monkeys "monkeying around." We are naturally creative, questioning creatures and must be unnaturally molded into mindless machine workers. Where spontaneity is the enemy of the machine society, it is the essence of natural action and, therefore, of work.

We view work first and foremost as a vehicle of self-expression. This expression naturally gives a life of integrity, service, enjoyment, and excellence. (See highlight on page 51.) Your natural self-expression comes out of you and is therefore integral, an expression of "thine own self." It is naturally your highest and best service, since the best thing you can do for others is to be yourself. Self-expression is naturally joyous and exciting and naturally prompts one to work with excellence. When you are doing something integral to yourself, something you love, you naturally want to make it the best you can the way you want to give a friend a lovely present. Your self-expression is your gift to the world. Discovering your life's work is not a mechanical process of assembling facts; it is more a matter of trusting yourself. Realizing it is a matter of trusting yourself and gaining specific knowledge, taking definite action, and persevering.

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