Thursday, September 15, 2005


My fantasy job is one where you pay me to stay as long as I want in an area of the country, seeing what is there and reporting to you, with photographs and writing, what I see. My actual job is as close an approximation to that as I can make it. My work is to see what is there and report to you what I see. I don’t get to do enough traveling, and, from time to time, some aspects of the job are aggravatingly in the way of seeing and reporting, but I cannot figure out how to get paid to do EXACTLY what I would like to do. I think one of you will have to die and leave me wealthy for that to happen. And, then, of course, there would be the problem of getting the reports to the one who died. Hardly seems right, to pay for something you would never receive.
I would like to be able to count on fifteen more years with the freedom and resources to realize my aims and follow my interests. I would be content if the next fifteen years were just an extension of the present, with some of the aggravating elements removed. Which is to say that I have it the way I would like for it to be, with only a bit more of “this” and a little less of “that.” Which is to say that there are a lot of things I wouldn’t change. Which is a very good thing to be able to say about one’s life.
I’m able to say it because I have made it a conscious, deliberate practice to do more of the things I enjoy, and less of the things I don’t enjoy, over time. “Enlightened Hedonism,” I call it. Sometimes, I call it “Compassionate Hedonism.” It differs from “Over The Edge Hedonism” by being careful not to cut itself off from relationship with those who have a stake in my life, and claims on my life—and by recognizing that it has to be carried out “within the context and circumstances of my life.” Which keeps me from spending my time in crack houses and opium dens, and enables me to maintain what I see as a healthy tension between what I enjoy and what I do not enjoy.
I do a lot of what I do not enjoy. And, I do a lot of what I enjoy. Sometimes I say “no” to me, and sometimes I say “no” to you. And, sometimes I say “no” when I should say “yes.” Or, “yes” when I should say “no.” And, that is just the way it is. It can’t be helped.
We have to bear the pain, you know, and part of the pain is that which comes with having said the wrong thing. Better luck next time. But the thrust, the aim, the intent, has to remain doing what we enjoy within the context and circumstances of our lives; doing more of what we enjoy and less of what we don’t enjoy over time, without being negligent and derelict in our legitimate duties, or disconnected from all that needs us in the world. And, if you try it and find it to be “too hard,” my hearty recommendation is that you bear the pain, and do it anyway. Otherwise, your life is going to belong to others, and you are going to be all empty, dry, and shallow, with no interests and enthusiasms to sustain you, and no joy to make you glad.
Don’t think for a minute that you are here to do “the Lord’s work.” Don’t think that you must be doing “God’s work.” You are here to do your work. Let the Lord do the Lord’s work. Let God do God’s work. You do your work. That’s an uncomfortable shift in the old Perspecter, isn’t it? Now, you have to decide what “your work” is, and justify doing it to your friends and family.
When you are doing God’s work, you can do strange things and get by with it, no questions asked. You can sell Bibles, and build Habitat houses, and take mission trips to Mexico every summer, or become a missionary to, say, Taiwan, or go to theological school and be a minister. And, your friends and family might even support you financially for a while. Not so, if you are only doing your work.
Your work doesn’t have the glamour and prestige of God’s work. And, if you get paid for doing your work, you’ll think you have to work God’s work in on the weekends, or in the summer, to square things up with the celestial accountants and make it to heaven when you die.
I hope you will hear this: Heaven is doing your work. Heaven is being who you came to be, doing what you came to do (Yes, of course, always “within the context and circumstances of your life”). And, if you don’t enjoy it, that isn’t it. If you aren’t compelled to do it, that isn’t it. If you don’t have to do it, that isn’t it. If you don’t live to do it, that isn’t it.
Maybe your work is helping to end unemployment, homelessness, hunger and poverty. And, maybe your work is sitting on the beach. Impossible to say. But, if you don’t think about it, day-dream about it, night-dream about it, read about it, imagine it, wonder about it—if it is not actively present in your mind—that isn’t it. I don’t know what it is. And, it isn’t my work to figure out for you what your work is. That’s your work, too. I’m just here to tell you that your work is to do your work. And, to wish you well in figuring out what to do and how to do it. I wish you well.
Here’s the deal about the next book (which is titled “The Evolution of the Idea of God, and Other Essays,” and will be ready for the printer by the middle of October). I’m not going through with it if I can’t arrange at least regional distribution. Regional distribution is just a bit less difficult than getting a reputable publisher to publish it. But, without it, you sell mostly to your friends and family, and end up sitting on fifteen boxes of books until your heirs have to send them to the dump. So, I’ll let you know.


rrusso said...

Hey Jim,
Welcome to the blogosphere! I always thought you belonged in one of these spaces in which to express all those wonderfully rambling thoughts of yours. I also thought you needed a wider audience. I will look forward to seeing more of your writing as I do the emails you sent out. I like the template you picked out too.
Sorry we missed you at the Church the past few weeks. Hope to see you this Sunday.
Also come see me sometime at:
Ron Russo

Laurie said...

Congratulations and welcome, Jim!
Your voice will be a wonderful presence on the web. I'd be right over to smash a bottle of champaigne over your computer, but it might mess up your desk!

Le Roi said...

I remember when you couldn't even spell blog.