Meditation on Labor Day

taking a napLabor Day? Labor Day? Please. It ought to be called Lazy Day, as far as I can figure.

I mean, here I am on this wonderful day of freedom from toil, which is only darkened by the fact that it comes at the end of a long weekend, without a care in the world or much of an urge to toil my free time away. Nope, my bony little backside is rooted firmly to a comfy seat as a warm summer day keeps my disposition sunny. Yes, I am the proverbial cheeseburger–er, that is, veggie-burger–in paradise.

Who in the world would think of labor, of toil, of work on Labor Day?

This is a day of rest, right? We get a day off from work to become vegetables, to chill out until we are as cool as cucumbers, to plop ourselves in the hammock and get as snug as bugs in our rugs…right?

This is a leisure day, right? A day to sit out one running of the rat race, right?

Or is it? I mean, whilst I bask in my vegetative state and enjoy the duty-free day, I can hear mowers and blowers and power saws screaming with effort from neighbors’ yards in every direction. Yes, strange as it may sound, so many folks on this no-labor day are busier than bees as they labor away on their yards, their homes, their vehicles, their errand running, and their countless other “little projects” that just have to get done during this wonderful bit of (paid) “free” time.

And nature, too, seems to be busy toiling away despite the U.S. federal government’s decree that this is an official holiday. Sure, Jesus may have given his spiel about considering the lilies and how they toil not nor spin and all that…but those same lilies are in fact busy growing and reproducing and being pretty and what have you at every moment. Besides, Jesus is not the best authority on taking time off: he had no qualms about breaking the rule against working on the Sabbath! And the Buddha may have talked about having “few duties” and “living lightly,” but that poor fellow wandered around preaching and teaching–and for no pay–so he is not one to believe either!

Despite the federal sanction to be lazy on this holiday, the birds and the squirrels and all the other creatures are going about their business with typical fervor–finding (and eating) food, building homes, investigating everything, and of course frolicking like lively spirits of joy.

The Earth itself is working in every moment, without a holiday or even a smoke break. It is busy busy as it spins like a top in the vacuum of space; it labors away in ways that allow us to live–largely by undoing much of what we have worked so hard to do!

OK, then, maybe my fellow Americans are simply being “natural” on this Labor Day with all their “toil and trouble,” as the witches in Macbeth put it. Maybe yard work, house work, and shopping are just manifestations of our genetic makeup as human animals, part of our instinct to secure a home and to hoard.

We human animals work so hard to get what we want…and then we have to work harder to keep it, even on holidays!

And the results of our toil and trouble are surely worth the energy (and money) we expend, right? We have beautiful homes, yards, cars, clothes, and accessories…right? The animals work, the lilies work, the Earth works, so it is natural for us to work, too…right?

Maybe. But consider what we so often slave away for. Then consider the lilies, whose “work” is simply the act of living and nothing else, whose work is the ends and the means, whose beauty is their life. Those lazy lilies somehow manage to work without labor…“And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

I think I need a nap.

Image credit: Frank Wouters, via FlickrLickr at Wikimedia Commons.

Written by jsvk13

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