This week, especially, has made me grateful for how our experience can be used to better equip us for the future. Living the challenges of a work life — or a working life — I am even more moved by the resilience, and sometimes the renewal, that we can find in those experiences.
So often in our work lives, there are as many moments of success as there are moments that … just don’t make sense. Truthfully, there are probably more of the latter. In this blog, we’ve seen people describe the learning moments that helped them shift their work lives into a more successful direction — whether it had to do with vocation, work/life balance or ethics.
What’s tender, to me, in what these people have shared, is how such a pivot was never just about what they’d done “wrong” before, but rather how they used the experience of the past to gain insight into themselves and shed light on their next steps.
This week, especially, has made me grateful for how our experience can be used to better equip us for the future. I don’t say that easily — I have my share of bruises from work decisions poorly made, and the emotions that inevitably come with them.
Living the challenges of a work life — or a working life — I am even more moved by the resilience, and sometimes the renewal, that we can find in those experiences. How can that be realistic? Well, we need help, for sure. Help can come from lots of places, and one prominent source is the patterns of the major stories in different religions — stories so important that they became the basis for holy days.
For instance, we just came through the celebration of the Persian New Year, Norooz, a holy day shared by Muslims, Baha’is, and Zoroastrians around the world. Through rituals and readings, often centered on the mystical Persian poet Hafiz, families say goodbye to the old year and seek what they yearn for in the year ahead. A passage that might be helpful, in work as in life, comes from “From the Large Jug, Drink”:
From the large jug, drink the wine of UnitySo that from your heart you can wash away the futility of life’s grief.But like this large jug, still keep the heart expansive.Why would you want to keep the heart captive, like an unopened bottle of wine?
Or the Jewish Passover, which begins today at sundown. As the youngest child asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” the household relives a powerful story of liberation, learning and arrival — and, year after year, seeks that pattern in life. How the past is understood and remembered shapes the understanding of the present, and of the future they hope to find.
Or the Christian Holy Week, with its real-time living of the Jesus story from Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday, as Christians, in a dizzying array of differences, experience the pattern of celebration (Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem), betrayal (by Judas and others), invitation into communal bonds so deep it’s uncomfortable (the Last Supper and foot-washing), torture and death — and then something new coming from that ending. They relive that pattern to seek what that lens shows them.
Or — like me, maybe you simply walked by a city garden of the same brown dirt and tangled bare branches you’ve passed for months, your coat gripped around yourself against a wind that seems all the more aggressive because you’re just so tired of it. And as you walked by, something yellow caught your eye. And at first you assumed it was a piece of trash left behind from the melting snow. But, at second glance, you saw it was the tender new blossom of forsythia.
At this time of renewal, of patterns of memory that let us see our work lives, to which we give so much, in ways that help us take that next step, I wish you a moment in which time stops and you can reset yourself for the blessing of a truly new season.
I thank you, deep powerthat works me ever more lightlyin ways I can’t make out.The day’s labor grows simple now,and like a holy faceheld in my dark hands.—Rilke, “Rilke’s Book of Hours,” I, 62