In his book The One Life We’re Given, poet and philosopher Mark Nepo talks about how there are, essentially, two fundamental kinds of work. The first is the work that is necessary for our survival, that which keeps us fed, clothed, and sheltered. This work keeps us physically cared for and protected.
The other kind of work is “the engagement in life that lets us thrive.” By this he means the creative, loving, passionate work that gets us up to dance and has us climb mountains and paint waterfalls. It is the work of kindness and compassion. It is the work that lessens the darkness within us.
The work that brings us joy isn’t necessary to survive, but it is necessary if we are to fully come alive. The path we cut helps us survive, but the heart with which we walk that path enables us to thrive. This kind of work–when the heart and mind and body conspire to completely enter the world–is the effort that opens us to grace.
The routines of life and the “crises” that we won’t remember a year from now, distract us from our heart’s path. We forget to be fully present in every moment, so our souls don’t awaken to gratitude and mercy. How many times did you walk by that flower before you finally heard the invitation to pause in your busyness to smell it or admire its shape or color? How often does your pet or child try to get your attention, but you are mesmerized by a screen of some sort?
Nepo also reports a story his friend Margo told him:
Last week I spent the afternoon here in Victoria wandering through these beautiful gardens, including a rose garden, which is part of a path of flowerbeds. I overheard a little girl say to her friends, as she stepped into the garden, “We’re in a maze.” But I heard it as “We’re in amaze.” And I started thinking about the attitude of wonder, which is available to us, but which we don’t often choose.
Our calling in this life is to stay in a stage of Amaze!
Rev. Michael Piazza