True to Our Souls
"Everyone has a special purpose, a special talent or gift to give to others, and it is your duty to discover what it is. Your special talent is God's gift to you. What you do with your talent is your gift to God." - Gautama Chopra, Child of the Dawn: A Magical Journey of Awakening
One of the biggest social movements of our time is society's search for meaning. Books on spirituality, soul, and personal growth are continually popping up on bestseller lists. The Internet is filling with similar sites and discussion groups. Numerous surveys show that the vast majority of people in almost every society in the world believe in some higher power. Conferences on spirituality in the workplace and soulful leadership have become regular events attracting thousands of meaning seekers.
The U.S. philosopher and poet, George Santayana, once said, "There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval." For many years I helped coach our son Chris' baseball team. One warm June evening we were driving home from a game. We had the windows down and sunroof open as we listened to the world's greatest baseball team - the Toronto Blue Jays - beating up the Yankees again. Chris seemed to be off in another world. Suddenly he turned to me with wonderment in voice and said, "Dad, do you ever have those seconds when it just clicks in your head that everything is perfect?" I thought for a minute and then replied, "Not as often as I used to. I've become too busy reaching for the future to enjoy the moment."
Life is a limited time offer. Too often our "dash" becomes a mad dash. We rush around trying to do and have it all. We become human doings rather than human beings. We provide for our bodily needs while starving our souls. We lose sight of what really matters. We become truer to our ego than our soul. Artists, writers, and performers often talk about finding their voice. Their art becomes an expression of that inner self. The people with the deepest and most meaningful lives are those who have found and use their inner voice. Their life sings from their soul. The ancient Roman poet, Horace, poses a core being question, "Why do you hasten to remove anything which hurts your eye, while if something affects your soul you postpone the cure until next year?"
Our work is a way that we can be true to our souls. Toward the end of his life, impressionistic painter Auguste Renoir had severe arthritis in his hands. But his voice wouldn't be silenced that easily. To continue expressing himself through his painting, he had his brushes strapped to his wrists. A friend asked why he imposed such pain and inconvenience upon himself. Without hesitation, Renoir answered, "The pain is momentary, but the art will last."
Regardless of how humble or prestigious society may consider what we do, our work should be a key means of finding and expressing our voice. In giving a Labor Day speech just after the turn of the 20th century, the U.S. president, Theodore Roosevelt declared, "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."
Our work is part of our dash. If it's just a job that I do half heartedly and half well, I make myself miserable and starve my soul. My inner voice develops laryngitis if I am in a job I hate (or just tolerate) and don't take pride in the quality of what I do. When our work is part of a deeper life calling we put our heart into it. Our work becomes our contribution to making this team, this organization, and this world just a little better because we passed this way. That's when what we do becomes a meaningful expression of who we are.