Sermons

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lyin' Around vs Puritan Work Ethic



It's overcast, a little drizzly, and getting colder.  It's the day before Thanksgiving and I am not hosting the meal.  I had a long (and good) day yesterday.  I only have to cook one dish for tomorrow's feast.  It's a good day for lying around.

Sadly, despite the weather, there is a fair amount of drilling, sawing, and leaf blowing going on next door.  No rest for the weary over there.  

I have mixed feelings about lying around, actually.  On the one hand, I like to do it, and as I get older I do more of it.  On the other hand, I feel slightly anxious or guilty or frustrated that I'm not getting anything done when I know there's Lots to be Done.  Puritan work ethic, perhaps?  

(Thanksgiving naturally makes one think about Pilgrims, aka Puritans....)

The Puritan Work Ethic (also known as the Protestant Work Ethic; frankly some of my Presbyterian friends have suggested it's really the Presbyterian Work Ethic, but I digress) goes something like this.  Work before play.  Work builds character.  Work produces rewards.  If you do not work, you are lazy and have bad character; if you lie around all day and leave the beds unmade and the groceries unbought you are lazy and have bad character and you are not going to get anywhere in life because you are giving in to your base slovenly impulses and you'll just end up dead in a ditch. If you play before you've finished your work, you are irresponsible and Not A Serious Person (and you have bad character).  If everybody gave in to their base slovenly impulses, then what would happen to the whole world?  Nothing would get done and everybody would be thrown into chaos.  (And it would be your fault for not doing your work.  What have you got to show for yourself?  What did you do all day?) Or something like that.

Of course what the PWE mostly does, in my opinion, is make people anxious, depressed, and killjoys both to themselves and others.  In my experience, there is always work to be done, and so one can really never play.  (Maybe this is the point, for some P's.)

I have an uneasy feeling about all this, because deep down inside I think I have bought into the PWE.  I have a hard time enjoying my lying around time.  At the very least, I feel guilty afterwards.  I beat up on myself about the lack of progress on the to-do list.  I look at the unmade bed and the piles of stuff and I get depressed.  I have a lot of trouble playing (except for verbally - for some reason I feel as if there is an exemption for wordplay).  

So, given that it's Thanksgiving and all the little kids in first grade are drawing pictures of Pilgrims, I'd just like to say that if I had some first graders around here, I'd say to them, "Watch out for those Puritans, kids!  Don't buy into their Work Ethic!  It will not make you happy!"


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