Lately there's been a lot of press about how our food gets to our tables. We're encouraged to think about the life of the chicken or cow before it shows up as lunch or dinner. Was the chicken raised in a crate or the cow confined to a stall all of its life? There's a new connection being made between the quality of life of the animal before its slaughter and our own quality of life, one that's worth some extra cost and even a little inconvenience.
Which makes me wonder about the toys we buy for Christmas presents, or indeed, any of the mass-produced products which fill myriads of shelves during the holiday season. Under what conditions are these items produced? What is the quality of life of the person on the line, looking at day after day of putting the same piece on a doll or tape recorder, and then passing it along?
These aren't earth-breaking thoughts; people have been writing, making movies, protesting, trying to enact legislation around these issues for quite some time. In fact, since the dawn of the age of industrialization there has been a critique of the human cost of mass production. What got me thinking this morning came from more personal reflections.
I feel like I am waiting for a certain type of energy to return, the energy that allows me to be the "productive person" that I once used to be. The sort who would have a million projects going at once, pride herself on the amount of things accomplished in a week, love the adrenalin rush of completion under deadlines. The only problem was that I had to become a machine in order to keep up with my self-imposed quota. And I did so at the cost of being a true human being. Like Dr. Faustus, I "sold my soul" to the devil of accomplishment and reaped the reward of the bargain.
Thankfully, my body rebelled. It crashed and burned (an early "hell"), setting me on a course that has been years in the making. I've had to relearn what it means to live a life that's as human as it can be - a life that is full and healthy on all levels, spiritual, physical, mental and emotional, and that has appropriate times of action and reflection. I'm starting to realize that if I live into the fullness of God's tri-fold love: giving-love, enjoying-love and creating-love, my desire for productivity will be appropriately met. God, out of love, desires to create with me. And in the generosity and wisdom of His love, not only will He determine the pace, but He will provide the raw materials for the creativity. Best of all, at the end of the day, He will set aside the time to enjoy the finished product. We'll kick back, put our feet up, grab a cup of whatever brew you prefer, and smile with delight at the fruits of our labor.
This morning, while listening to our local public radio station, I happened to catch this piece of data: one of the things that determines whether or not you will be happy at work, is, surprisingly, not the type of work, but the fact that you have a best friend at work. In one way, this is surprising, given all the talk on the importance of "meaningful work" in our lives. In another way, this is not so surprising, given the deeper need we have for meaningful relationships.
In past blogs, I've talked about 2 types of love: giving-love (which we often connect with God) and receiving-love (which I've tried to show is actually supremely Godlike). But there's a third type of love that rounds out the multi-directional aspects of love. This is "making" or creating-love." Creating-love is what happens when you aren't only the giver, or only the receiver, but you are involved in a relationship where the giving and receiving flows back and forth and the result is that something new is made. Love as co-creating.
This creating-love shows up in many situations: the love of two friends who go on a camping trip and forge an experience, or sit around drinking coffee and discover a new insight; the love of an artist with their medium who with the give and take of the material they're working with fashion a painting, dance, song or new cuisine. (Interestingly enough, writers discuss how writing is often co-creative. Some characters just show up, and then they take unexpected turns which the author is obliged to follow.) There is also the love of a husband and wife who join their lives together to establish a home and out of their love-making conceive children, creating a family to fill that home.
The first thing we learn about the God of the Bible is that he is a making God. Hebrew scriptures start "in the beginning" and in the beginning God creates. Christians affirm that God creates out of nothing - at least to begin with. But once something is made, God speaks to what is and woos more from what is there. I love the passages that describe the sea and the earth joining in the creative process - "Let the earth bring forth!" God says. "Let the sea bring forth". And they, and God, together do.
It's the joy that comes from working together that brings the happiness that the researcher was describing in the blurb I mentioned above. And it's this joy of creating together that God also desires with his creation. More on future blogs.