Monday, April 12, 2010

The Art of Work

I'm reading through Linchpin by Seth Godin, the best selling author and marketing guru. He offers a simple but valuable insight on how work is transformed into art when we invest what he calls "emotional labor" into our daily work.

"Art is unique, new, and challenging to the status quo.... Art cannot be merely commerce. It must also be a gift... Art is not limited to art school, or to music or even to stage. Art is any original idea that can be a gift. It takes art to make a mom happy on the first day of nursery school... It takes art to construct the plans for the English Channel. Most of all, art involves labor. Not the labor of lifting a brush, or typing a sentence, but the emotional labor of doing something difficult, taking a risk and extending yourself."

Seth Godin, Linchpin, p.86

There is something wonderful and biblical about the idea that Godin is advocating. I have no reason to believe that Godin is a professing Christian but he is on to something! So much of work even in Christian discourse is viewed in transactional terms - do a specific volume of work for a specific return in monetary value. When we think of our work exclusively in these terms, we miss the essence of what God intended. We lose the soul of God glorifying work - the opportunity to imitate our Creator God through our work.

In Genesis 1, God worked in Creation by creating the Universe ex nihilo (out of nothing). Imitating Him in our work isn't simply about working ethically - it also includes working creatively. While we cannot create ex-nihilo, we are called to use our gifts to put our world into order, to explore new opportunities and nurture existing opportunities.

In other words, we are called to create art through our work.

Are you an artist through the work you perform? Are there opportunities for you to imitate God by work creatively and investing emotional labor?


Ted M. Gossard said...

ah, left brain, right brain. Of course something like that had to come to my mind. I actually do have to think "art" when I'm driving a the hi-lo backwards at work. If I think like a science, I think I could be apt to hit something. Funny how we're meant to operate, or end up having to operate with that artistic side so that something just kind of flows out of who we are, or the gift that we have. Those are blessed who can work on developing their gift. Or whose work encourages such creativity.

Every Square Inch said...

Ted - thank you for your thoughts. We are given work, not simply to produce but to imitate our God in exercising creativity...even driving the hi-lo