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In The Reinvention of Work, radical priest Matthew Fox draws on a rich legacy of great mystics and philosophers and proposes a spirituality of work. As Thomas Aquinas said, "To live well is to work well," and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony?a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic "soul work."
In The Reinvention of Work, radical priest Matthew Fox draws on a rich legacy of great mystics and philosophers and proposes a spirituality of work. As Thomas Aquinas said, "To live well is to work well," and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony—a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic "soul work."
There are essentially two kinds of work: inner and outer. The inner work refers to that large world within our souls or selves; the outer is what we give birth to or interact with outside ourselves. The industrial revolution was essentially an outer revolution. Its engines and machines were cold and lifeless external objects. The philosophy of that period-derived from the work of Descartes and Kant, who were, In turn, inspired by Newton-taught us to relate to things as we would to machines-objectively. Much was gained by this new, objective relationship. Work became more efficient; a machine could do far more work than could a horse-drawn plow with a person behind it.
But much was lost also. Prior to the industrial revolution, work was more relational. To be successful as a farmer one had to relate well to one's farm animals; humans and animals were interdependent. One could not survive or thrive on subject-object relationships. While tilling the soil or picking vegetables could be both an inner and an outer experience, driving a tractor and repairing it or fixing a boiler and fueling it turned farmers' attention outward, since relating to another living being was not necessary.
The myth of work in the industrial era fed on this outer-directedness. The myth holds to this day. For example, if an automobile factory closes in Detroit (or, more likely, moves to Taiwan or to Mexico) or if a defense plant shuts down in California, the immediate response is, "We're devastated. We have lost our Jobs." But we no longer have to internalize the industrial-era myth that work I's primarily about factories and industry. Indeed, by payingattention to the question What are the work needs of our time? we can actually launch new ways of doing work, of being workers, of making jobs, of compensating work. The heart of the matter lies in paying attention to the work that the industrial model practically ignores: our inner work. As economist E. F. Schumacher put it in the epilogue to his classic book, Small Is Beautiful: "Everywhere people ask: 'What can I actually do?' The answer is as simple as it is disconcerting: We can, each of us, work to put our own inner house in order." Putting our own inner houses in order will prove the key to reinventing work for the human species. And not only individuals have inner houses; the inner houses of our communities, our churches and synagogues, our economic and political systems, and our neighborhood and family relationships all need our attention at this critical moment in human and Earth history.
The lesson from the industrial revolution is this: work is not primarily about factories and industries. The human species has always worked; long before the industrial revolution there was plenty of work for humans. For the sake of the future, we must dismantle the war industry and redirect our economy toward sound and life-sustaining enterprises. If the government were to truly support this effort, losing one's job would not seem like the end of the world, for there is so much new work that needs doing. When people lament the loss of the competitive edge in the car industry to Japan and elsewhere, another question arises: What work might we do and be trained to do that is more useful at this time for our people? After all, the world hardly needs more automobiles. Cars are destroying our air and ozone protection layers and therefore endangering the future. The loss of dominance in certain industries might be a blessing in disguise, freeing us up for more pressing work in our time. But if that is so, then workers must be trained for this new work that God and the universe are asking of us.
What might this new work be? I am convinced that it is work on the human being itself. We might call this "inner work." We have lost our sense of an inner life; we have become so alienated from ourselves by work in the industrial era that abuse of alcohol or drugs or some other addiction is often the nearest thing we have to an inner life.
Addiction is a larger industry in America today than automobile production. The effort to combat addiction is also a rapidly expanding industry. But we cannot combat it without the tools of spirituality aiding our efforts to heal the inner child and to release the authentic adult. Scientist Peter Russell has written that we need a project to explore human consciousness today comparable to the Manhattan Project of fifty years ago. Just as we set about to discover the core of energy in the universe at that time-and managed to explode the atom-so today we need to explore the core of human energy. The models he suggests for exploring consciousness are Teresa of Avila and Francis of Assisi, who showed us by their lives and teachings that there is a mystic inside every one of us.
I am proposing that we have a direction for redefining work in the nineties, for reinventing work, and for making work possible for all. It is the work the universe is asking of us-work on our own selves, our own species. Why is this so pressing? Because we are the problem; we are the ones who are destroying our own habitat and that of other species by our blindness, greed, envy, violence, and rapaciousness. These spiritual sins are destroying the planet and creating despair in the young. (Aquinas teaches that spiritual sins are far more serious than carnal ones, but churches have seldom followed his lead on this.) Therefore we need spiritual work. And spiritual workers.
The new era in work, the postmodern and postindustrial era, will be an era of doing our inner work. This is how we can put people to good work today.
We need a massive investment of talent and discipline in our inner lives. When we do this we will find some solutions for the overwhelming issues of violence and self-destruction, of internalized oppression and external acts of oppression, of the sexism, racism, homophobia, and fear that overwhelm our species and that are played out from generation to generation in acts of abuse-physical, emotional, sexual, and religious. All the sources of injustice are not to be found in systems alone. Within our psyches lie clues to our resistance to justice.
Having proposed a distinction between inner and outer work, we do not want to create a permanent split between them. A third kind of work-that of bringing inner and outer together-will also be...Reinvention of Work. Copyright © by Matthew Fox. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
|Introduction: Job Crisis or Work Crisis?||1|
|1||The Great Work and the Inner Work: Revisioning Work||19|
|1||The Pain of Work: Work As Nothingness and Lamentation||25|
|2||From Machine to Green: How a New Cosmology Helps Us Revision Work||58|
|3||Exploring Our Inner Work: Work As Enchantment||91|
|4||Creativity: Where Inner and Outer Work Merge||113|
|II||The Great Work and the Outer Work: Reinventing Work||131|
|5||The Environmental Revolution and the Reinvention of Work, Including Farming and Politics||140|
|6||Reinventing Work: Education, the Young, and Sexuality||169|
|7||Reinventing Work: Health Care, Psychology, and Art||190|
|8||Reinventing Work: Economics, Business, and Science||218|
|III||Ritual: Where the Great Work of the Universe and the Work of the People Come Together||249|
|9||The Reenchantment of Ritual: Reinventing Work by Rediscovering the Festive||255|
|Conclusion: Work As Sacrament, Sacrament As Work||296|
|Epilogue: A Spirituality of Work Questionnaire||309|
|Appendix: A Preface of Creation||313|