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If we have kept the Desert Frequency open during Lent we have probably received odd notifications of ways we have been unwittingly absorbed into the materialistic mindset of our culture. This happened to me listening to the financial news recently and hearing references to numbers ‘out of work’ or ‘looking for work’. We use the word work to refer only to paid labour where we sell our time, brains or muscle in order to survive. The phrase ‘numbers out of work’ suggests the depersonalisation of work that has taken place, reducing it to a mercenary transaction, rather than saying ‘the number of people who are not able to work and feel without use or value’... Even for those who are ‘in work’, however, their work can fail to connect them to the life of society and the sense of mystery in the larger process of evolution we are all passing through.
Work is a primordial right for human beings. It is an essential part of our way to the dignity of human existence by knowing ourselves to be co-creators with God. When we know this we become conscious that through our work we will experience beauty. Many people would find this a quaint and meaningless idea. There’s no time for the vast majority to find beauty in modern work. If you work today (as most do) in retail, service industries, or technology you may well find work exhausting, boring, even disgusting. Long hours, often minimum wage and, to support the family, the obligation to work six days a week. For those at the top of the pyramid, however, who work generally with less existential anxiety and many more perks and privileges, their labour may still secretly be a source of inner shame when they own to themselves that the power they wield is supporting a system that they know to be unjust and inhuman.
Simone Weil, in her great (newly translated work) The Need for Roots, wrote that ‘our time has a unique mission, calling for the creation of a civilization based on the spirituality of work’. Meaning not money is the essential value that gives work the ability to enhance our humanity, to repair it and reveal its dignity and this leads to the relationships on which civilised behaviour and perception is founded.
Next time you hear the word work used in ordinary conversation – she’s at work, he’s working himself sick, I’d better get back to work – listen to what the word is evoking for you just in the way it is spoken. How do you feel about your work?
Tests show that our mind is wandering for about half the time we are awake. We rarely pay full attention to the work we are doing or to the person we are with. We are dissecting the immediate past or rushing on into the next thing. For work to regain its dignity and spirituality on a large scale public action leading to a shift in collective consciousness will be needed. But the sure and immediate way to restore work to its life-giving, creative dignity in our own life is to act directly on our lack of attention, our absent-mindedness. The Bhagavad Gita, like the Cloud of Unknowing, speaks of this as the work of silence:
Whoever in their work finds silence, and who sees that silence is work, this person in truth sees the Light and in all his works finds peace  (BG 4:18)

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2024
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