Saturday, April 28, 2007

"You have to do your work whether you get recognized or not."

So says veteran jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins of all the prizes and awards he's received during a sixty-five year musical career.

I heard NPR's profile of Rollins as I headed to another part of town to conduct a funeral. His words grabbed me. The reason: In our media-saturated culture where every blogger is a potential celebrity and people are extolled as idols and superstars because they entertain us, Rollins' words are a needed smack-in-the-chops.

Part of the joy and the glory of being human is that we're privileged to work. We can set out to accomplish something and at the end of the day, behold, it's done. Or, we've advanced toward getting it done.

None of this is to say that some work isn't arduous and repetitive.

Nor is it to say that some who work aren't exploited by others. (It happens and it's immoral.)

But I'm convinced that work was never meant to be like that. Work is meant to be an expression of beings created, as Genesis tells us, "in the image of God." (Work, according to the Genesis account, was also never meant to be punishment of humanity. Human beings were charged with working, including caring for and ruling over creation, before sin entered the human picture. God will even have work for us to do in heaven. The old saying has it that there's no rest for the weary. The Bible seems to say that in heaven, we won't be wearied by work.)

But, even work that we love can become boring or difficult. In fact, the more difficult our work, often the more fulfilling it is. Just ask your local heart surgeon, flight controller, housewife, store manager, or pastor, among others.

Nonetheless, it's taken (taking) me a long time to get over this recognition thing, my addiction to being lauded for simply doing my job. According to Rollins, though compliments are nice--and I believe in handing them out liberally--they can't be the reason we work. Here's what he also told NPR:
The real deal is doing it, as best you can do it. And that's it. That's its own reward.

[UPDATE: Amba picks this topic up and makes some interesting points.]

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