I'm reading A Life at Work for the second time and finding it more satisfying than the first reading. A blogger at Amazon recommended this book with those by James Hollis and David Whyte and I fully agree. Hollis has a few middle chapters in his Why Good People Do Bad Things about work and the shadow that go well with Moore's discussion of life work.
This quote from Whyte's The Heart Aroused also fits with Moore's new book: "IF we make our life vows consciously, we must speak them again and again in order not to forget. If they are as yet unconscious, the soul will work to uncover them by pushing us toward situations that demand us to explain ourselves. We can look at the pressures of corporate life in a pathological sense, stressful without sense or sensibility, or we can see it as the tempering element that unites the articulation of personal destiny with the urgent and pragmatic concerns of the every day. We cultivate an inner life knowing that what is most important to us must be spoken and made real in the outer world, and in doing that we also gain a hard-won respect for the inner life and visions of others and the courage it takes to speak them in our presences."
Moore explores this alignment of "personal destiny" with "pragmatic concerns" in his new book.
All the time I was writing this book I titled it "Opus," a title a publisher would not appreciate. But it allowed me to make the alchemical dimension more intense and central. I also used for the subtitle, for myself, Finding Your Life Work. That is my purpose here: to explore what a life work is. I take it to be a lifelong opus, a working at one's life and soul, soul work if you will. I see it as embracing everything we do: a job, career, home, relationships, travel, parenting—everything. A job may not be your life work.
Tomorrow I go on the road talking about the book. I have a lot to say, more than is on the pages, and I look forward to a number of interesting venues: Smithsonian Associates, Starbucks, the Institute of Imaginal Studies, the Urban Retreat Center of San Francisco.
Interestingly (to me), my own work life was in a deep gulley while the book was being written, and just now, with the book's appearance, my work seems to be on the upswing. I'll want to be careful with the next project on illness and medicine.
Thanks, Deborah, for your intelligence and patience.
It's interesting how a working title can prove so important in the creative process. That's also the time, as I've heard many movie directors say, when projects take on a life of their own. Perhaps there is conception within us, then a sort of farewell from our Opus as we must leave it to move on. Although we never forget our Opus, and future projects are informed by it, we can't hold on forever. Our 'baby' has grown?
Apropos illness and medicine, I've been laid up with a sprained back for the past few days. What a time for reflection and discovery! It's amazing what the psyche can do to us when we stop listening to it.
There's a book to be written about how the meaning of work is changing with what some call 'the new capitalism', or 'globalization'. Starbucks is definitely the place to start that discussion when we consider where and how their coffee is made.
Finally, I'd like to thank Thomas Moore for sharing his thoughts about Opus with us.
At Deborah's prompting, I am sharing a personal email that I sent yesterday (to my email list) about Tom's new book. For whatever it might be worth, here it is...
Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, has just released his newest book, A Life at Work. I have read Care of the Soul numerous times and consider its suggestions and ideas to be profoundly life changing. It’s at the top of my “favorites” book list and I often recommend it to new friends. Whatever was done so splendidly in and with Care of the Soul seems to have now somehow found its true way home. A Life at Work has emerged from the cocoon of Tom’s heart into a healing balm of thoughts, ideas and words fully understandable—yet immeasurably life-changing. In Care of the Soul, I re-read many sentences as I attempted to fully understand the gift of ideas being presented. Not so in this book. Reading, discovery, encouragement and amazement flowed with ease. Perhaps that’s just me. But maybe not.
Whether, you have ever contemplated what it is you should be doing with your life—or perhaps more likely—if someone you know has been giving thought to what they want to do with their life, this Book is a rare, beautiful and precious “gemstone of guidance.”’ But make no mistake, please: it goes far beyond our selection of the right work. For all of us, Thomas Moore steadily offers hope that a life of beauty, achievement, and tranquility arises from the ordinary—when it’s valued as extraordinary.
Can you tell I am recommending this book? I hope you will enjoy it…
Thanks Russ for sharing your thoughts about Moore's A Life at Work.
I thought Barque members would enjoy reading your candid response as much as your blogging fans. I hope Laura, too, will share her views about the book. D.
You are absolutely welcome. Tom's work is a healing effort for the world, isn't it? As far as I can see, anything I can do to increase his readership is a move toward a more sustainable, beautiful and peaceful planet--something so desperately needed...the Barque is filling a vital need, so thank you Deborah for all your effort
I've read your contribution twice, doing my best to make sure I understand what you mean to say. Your words took me to my own 'paradox'. By the way, an important dream in my life featured a 'pair of ducks' in my grandparents' dining room, a location that represents unity and childhood to me. I imagine the paradox in my life as a gambler and a saint; the former is free-spirited and loves to take risks while the latter is looking for the way of salvation --- I just mistyped that as 'slav-ation' (hehehe). The Gambler wants to live life on the run, avoiding debts owed and the wrath of those he's cheated. The Saint would love to save the Gambler from his wicked ways. Does this sound anything like your two horses, tugging in opposite directions?
It could be that the tensions on those ropes/reins is necessary for you to remain vital. Or perhaps you feel it's got to reach a breaking point when the lines snap?
A Frenchman with whom I was studying in Munich once asked me what the main difference between Europe and America was. My immediate response was to say that America was plastic and Europe was wood. I later thought what I should have said is America has lots of spirit, Europe lots of soul. Upon reflection, I know it's not so cut and dried as all that, but I do think there's some truth in my remarks. I often felt that the Europeans I lived with were lacking in spirit, perhaps the puer spirit I so often find in America. At the same time, the relatively young America seems to be low on soul, particularly the gentrified, suburban part of it. Maybe I'm being unfair, but that's my impression. It's based on limited experience, of course.
Do you see anything of value to your query about spirit in what I've written, Ken?
That's a wonderful way to stand the concept of soul on its head, ie that soul makes us human. And I agree with your comments about our culture's obsession with profit margins and efficiency. What made Europe feel soulful to me was, in part, the way social democracy provided ways for people to focus less on the bottom line and more on time with family and friends, as well as time to recreate and convalesce. Some of that is changing now that our model of business has been adopted by many European states. I'd like to know more about what you mean by 'native moralism' because I can only guess that it implies traditional notions of right and wrong.
Thomas Moore has told us of his 'broken heart'. Wonder what his spirit is up to?
I appreciate your heartfelt words. All I can share is my experience, which might sound odd to you. For me, that soaring spirit has always been present (but perhaps not consistently evident), except that it became defined--in other words, applicable or ready to be put to practical use--as a result of my soulful attention to my own nature (my soul). Absent this immersion with my own soulfulness, I now doubt that I would have such clarity with regard to my spirited aspirations. One metaphor that comes to mind as I look back, is the egg & the bird, soul and spirit respectively. Nurtured, the egg gives way to the emerging bird; the bird takes flight. The egg and the bird are different forms of the same thing. I see soul and spirit very similarly. But if the egg is not properly nurtured, and it's incubation is prolonged, the hatchling bird and its confines may feel at odds. Likewise, a premature hatchling may also feel its awkwardness. That is my experience with myself, and I do not know if it applies to you or even makes sense. Thank you for sharing, in any event.
What an interesting metaphor when we consider not only the symbolism of the egg in pagan and mystical (?) religion. It is almost Easter after all. :-) And what if that bird is the Phoenix? I don't want to get too steeped in metaphor and symbolism --- if I haven't already --- but it might important o remember that the journey, the process (hatching, rebirth, flight)..., is always flowing like a river, even if we get caught on a snag (product) along the way. Keeping that bigger picture of the process in mind has been a real challenge for me at times. I seem to love carefully examination of tiny snags. :-) I chalk it up to having too big a boat (ego). Time to deflate the raft?
There are many threads in your post to explore, Ken, including health, middle age, others' expectations of us, our own expectations, starting from where we are... I thought your post also addressed how to reconcile soulfulness with ambition, and I liked Rob's response that touched on "right" or "skillful" ambition. I think Russ illustrated this relationship in his post, too with the idea of the egg (apologies, Russ, if I am wrong). Ambition can be good, and the spirit and energy it requires, essential. Questions concern intention and motivation, and what actions are actually taken. Pegasus can't fly forever and when he lands for rest, the draught horse can be a good friend. D