Respecting Work

By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

The Indian poet Rabinranath Tagore says:

I slept and I thought that life was Happiness
I woke up and discovered that life was Duty
I fulfilled my duty and discovered that it was Happiness.

In fact, through my work I discover life, people and everything that happens around us. The only trap that I need to avoid is not to find that one day is the same as another. Really, every morning brings with it a hidden miracle, and we need to pay attention to this miracle.

“Duty” is a mysterious word, which can have two opposite meanings: lack of enthusiasm, or the understanding that we need to share our love with someone else.

In the first case, we are always giving an excuse for not accepting our responsibility; in the second, duty becomes a kind of devotion, of unrestricted love for the human condition, and we begin to fight for what we want to happen.

I try to do that through my work, sharing my love. Love is also a mysterious thing: the more we share, the more it multiplies.

There is a saying in Genesis that has always intrigued me: work is considered a kind of curse that God puts on the human being. When Adam commits the original sin, he hears the Almighty say: “through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.”

It took a long time for me to understand that, when doing that, God was putting the Universe in motion. Until then, everything is beautiful, paradisiacal – but nothing evolves, and, as we have just said, Adam begins to believe that one day is the same as the other. And, consequently, he loses the sense of the miracle of his own existence.

Then the Lord, looking at his creation, understands that it is necessary to help him regain that feeling.

Why is it that one of the great dreams of many human beings is to one day stop working?

Because he does not love what he does. If he did, he would ask the Heavens to keep him in good health and with enough enthusiasm so that he could, on the last day of his life, wake up that morning and do something useful for himself, for his family or for another human being.

A man walked through the French Pyrenees, when he met an old shepherd. He shared his food with him, and they spent a long time talking about life. At a given moment, they began to discuss work.

– I’m not free. My life is wretched because I am a slave of my job.

The shepherd began to sing. As they were in a mountain ravine, the music echoed softly and filled the valley. Suddenly, the shepherd interrupted his singing, and began to curse everything and everyone. The shepherd’s shouts also rebounded on the mountains, and returned to where the two had met.

– Everything depends on what you are doing – said the shepherd. Work is like this valley; it reflects the energy you put in it.

“There is no such thing as a wretched task. If you are not satisfied, run the risk of changing everything and dedicating yourself to what you love. It is better to be happy with a small wage than be unhappy because you are afraid to change”.

© Translated by James Mulholland

Filed under: Paulo Coelho

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