Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Relations and Buddhist Teahouses

--Labor Day dawns:  it's the earliest day that Labor Day can come, on this first day of September.  It will be a scorcher down here at the southern tip of the U.S.

--Will you spend today putting away your white clothes and your sandals?  I will not.  I wear sandals year round, and I have one white skirt that I'll wear until October or November.  But I am old enough to remember a time when we were not allowed to wear white to church after Labor Day.  It was just not done in the traditional states of the U.S. South where I spent my childhood--even though the hot weather would continue well into September and October.  Back to school meant that feet went back into closed shoes--no more sandals.

--Perhaps you will spend today thinking about labor relations.  No, probably you will not.  I got an e-mail from a very high up person in our organization thanking us all for being such good employees and wishing us all a happy Labor Day.  I thought about the origins of Labor Day and wondered if the higher up knew any of it.  I wondered if the higher up thought he was just sending a thank you e-mail because that's what bosses should do on Labor Day.

--Or was it a clever way of co-opting the workers?  A way of buying our gratitude without spending a cent? 

--No, I suspect it was just considered good form.  I will spend the day being grateful that my workplace is generally safe and that my work is not too onerous.

--I will also spend some time wondering if I'm doing the work I was put on earth to do.  Of course, that presupposes a purpose of sorts.  Maybe it would be better to ponder the ways I could make life better for the workers around me.

----It's interesting to me that I feel that I only feel I'm doing meaningful work if I'm making an important difference each and every day.  And if I'm being honest, I want it to be an important difference like the kind that Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks made, the kind of difference where future generations will be better off because I walked the planet (and yes, I realize this could sound like monstrous ego, but it's also fueled by a fierce yearning for social justice).  Did Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King feel that they made a difference each and every day?  Probably not.  It's only in retrospect that it's clear.

--I'd like to move towards the Buddhist teahouse approach of meaningful work.  In an interview with Bill Moyers, Jane Hirshfield explains, "Teahouse practice means that you don't explicitly talk about Zen.  It refers to leading your life as if you were an old woman who has a teahouse by the side of the road.  Nobody knows why they like to go there, they just feel good drinking her tea.  She's not known as a Buddhist teacher, she doesn't say, "This is the Zen teahouse."  All she does is simply serve tea--but still, her decades of attentiveness are part of the way she does it.  No one knows about her faithful attention to the practice, it's just there, in the serving of the tea, and the way she cleans the counters and washes the cups" (Fooling with Words:  A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft, page 112).

--How can we infuse this Buddhist teahouse approach into every aspect of our lives?  What would change?

No comments: