The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

A Drawing Exploring the Holy Invitation to Labor and Rest With God, a Cry of my Heart.

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest, ink drawing

This drawing, a work in progress, represents an effort to illustrate and pray into the swirling cloud of thoughts, feelings and impressions I have surrounding the deep nature of work.  It is something continually at the front of my consciousness.  I think about the invitation to Adam and Eve on the eighth day- to enter into creation and labor as an act of cooperation with the Divine Creator.  I often think that work is more than just earning provision.  I wonder even if labor could be a sacrament.  Could the labor we undertake from day to day be like Archimedes’ Lever, positioned to move something really big?  Is it doing more than our perspective allows us to see?  My questions are shaped by a belief that the spiritual reality of the Universe is more vast and more real than the realm of our physical perceptions and measurements.  More specifically, is my conviction of a deeply interconnected relationship between everything we see and do in a physical sense with the unimagined unseen vastness of God’s goodness.  I believe creation and our place in it is, in a manner of speaking, a technology God gave us to engage the invitation to know and worship Him.  It was shattered almost immediately, it would seem, but through the finished work of the Cross, Christ established reconciliation.  (This is not a sermon, nor am I trying to prove anything, its just about a drawing and I’m leaving so much out!)

So, I think about that original invitation:  to labor in creation before “the Fall”, but there is more in that idea than my hopeless facility with language is up for.  Because it means tinkering intimately with the voice and breath of the King of the Universe, His output, His design.  It is like Thomas putting his finger in the side of Jesus, exploring. 

Everything is Spiritual

Everything is spiritual, because it was created by Him.  What am I really doing when I plant a tree, work in the soil, plane a board, move sheep, or make a drawing?  I adopted a monastic prayer decades ago:  “Jesus make the work of my hands into a prayer.”  It has evolved at times to, “Jesus make the work of my hands into worship.”  I know that I cannot.  I may be moving into the realms of heresy with that prayer- among other things.  At least may it be for His kingdom.  At least may it be for His glory.  How can I not worship Him when everything I touch and see was made by Him, and becomes part of our relationship?  If it is true, than the earth and everything that is in it is more sacred that we can possibly imagine, and it is laced with the fear of the Lord, in spite of everything that we have done to corrupt it, and in spite of everything God’s ancient enemy has done to corrupt it.  For the love of God!, all creation groans!  How long, Lord? (ok, that felt a bit like a sermon.)

Sonship & Apprenticeship

Work is a teacher.  The dynamic in this drawing that could sum up what the School of the Transfer of Energy is all about (though it is essentially about everything) is the sonship/apprenticeship of man to God in the field of the Earth.  The son/apprentice has the dignity of his learning being a part of something real, something bigger than his own mind and sphere.  He labors with discipline beside a father and master, absorbing more than can be said or written.  He sees the care and the purpose unfold on a daily basis.  He moves from confusion to understanding as more of the process is revealed to him through practice and living.  In a whole system, work is the technology of the teacher, the school and the relationship.  To work is being a daughter and a son.  It is also being a mother and a father.  

Rest

I can’t stop.  Sometimes I feel that I am made to work to such a degree that I cant stop until I’ve used myself up.  I admit it’s not the most balanced perspective, and it often surfaces when I’m neck deep in lambs or hay, or  stacked up projects.  I’ve been accused of working too hard, never sitting still, never resting.  There is the burden of my wealth of gifts and resources, the annual flood of ideas and inspiration, and the endless need of the world.  There is so much I desire to make and build and accomplish, which has resulted in a life-long struggle with the concept of “rest” in the sabbatical sense.  I am not good at it.  That is one perspective.  On the other hand, it could be that rest is inherent to labor.  The sleep of the labourer is sweet, whether he have eaten little or much.  Ecyclesiastes 5:12. 

The rest, then, is intertwined with labor.  Holistically speaking, it is “natural”.  It is woven in the fabric in the same way that the spiritual is with the physical (picture a well marbled steak or a vein of silver in a rock face).  The sabbath is part of the weave of the week., and also of the agricultural “week of years”.  In this way rest starts to become something that measures and punctuates, more about a pace or a cadence, a governor for the laborer’s engine.   

I wish I had language to talk about the sacredness of “body mechanics”:  how to dig a hole, how to bend properly, posture, etc., and how doing them properly integrates rest into the system.  How it isn’t just mundane, but part of our design and thus beautiful and “sacred”.

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor, preliminary sketch.

Symbolism

By being about so much, this image is sort of a repository for many symbols I think about and use.  Tools themselves become symbols and can’t help but transform into speaking objects.  Saying their words and singing their songs about the work they do, and how they do it with grace and beauty, or lamenting how they must do it with heaviness and sadness.  The axe, the shovel, the pen… every symbol unlocks a door to another world. 

Then are the endless books of the trees and roots.  How growing trees lead me into appreciation of the seeming contentment of God to develop and grow things slowly (from my perspective).  Trees remind me that it is not about me, but about my children and their children, and the people I can’t foresee.  The 100 year or 200 year farm plan.  And there is more, there is so much more- but language can’t say it.  Only trees can say it.

There are more symbols, so many more it is mind numbing and I just can’t go on.  Another time, perhaps.

The Sanctuary

At first this little building was something I wanted to build on my dad’s land, when I was attempting the hermit’s life there.  I made drawings of it and multiple block prints functioning as prayers, asking God if it was something I could make.  I was truly desperate to build something that mattered, that could bring Him a tangible expression of glory.  It has yet to manifest, though I’ve always wondered about the sanctuary as I’ve aged.  Was it only a spiritual building?   Is it something that He is building me into?  Is it my cumulative life’s work?  Is it a foolish dream?  Idolatry, even?  Maybe I need to be older and more experienced to build it?  Can I build it now, on my own land?  

sketch of the Sanctuary from June of 2000

I was intrigued to see it resurface in this new drawing.  I can’t say I know why, but i’m asking.  As a symbol it represents much, but perhaps most significantly, of my desperate struggle to make my work into a prayer:  to tangibly engage with God on the physical space, my world, of paper, wood, soil, and pigments about what is in my heart – the relationship and the meeting place.  I’m on the earth grappling with heaven, or am I from heaven grappling with the earth?  I don’t know, but I am not among those who say we are just sojourner’s here, that we are just “passing through”.  I get it, and it is probably true, but I just can’t say it.  I live here, and I can’t ignore that it is part of His design.  

2003 print of The Sanctuary first printed in 2000

Perhaps this weaving of work and rest is the sanctuary?  I have more questions than answers.  Which is why I am on my knees.  Which is why I am making this drawing.  And which is why I work.   I do not know where else to go.

another print from 2000 about the Sanctuary, reprinted in 2003 

In Gratis

I have been doing this weblog for twelve years, which may be a pretty long time.  I haven’t offered much in the way of words in that time.  I’ve felt lately that I need to begin to venture into that territory.   Words tend to terrify me a bit.  I don’t always like them, because they never do what I want them to do.  They always leave me short, and feeling a little cheap or fraudulent.  I write one thing, then immediately see it from another perspective, so I write that, then it moves on me again, and it never ends.  Eventually I have to settle, knowing that I’ve said one thing that may or may not be true, but I’ve left greater multitudes unsaid.  I have failed.  That is what writing is to me, a perpetual string of failures, which is really unsatisfying.  So I have avoided taking that risk.  Until now.

Elie Wiesel wrote down this quote of the Kotzker speaking to a disciple:

Certain experiences may be transmitted by language, others- more profound- by silence; and then there are those that cannot be transmitted, not even by silence.  Never mind.  Who says that experiences are made to be shared?  They must be lived.  That’s all.  And who says that the truth is made to be revealed?  It must be sought.  That is all…

Thanks for reading, friends.  Thank you for your mercy and your grace and your acceptance.  Be at peace.

-Jack

Walking Man Sketches

Walking Man Eats Alfalfa Roots

Walking Man Listens To the Roots Talking To One Another

Walking Man Looks Backwards Into Time

Walking Man Hefting Bodark Roots and His Water Pot

Walking Man Encounters the Spirit of the Lord In a Night Heron

Night Heron Detail

Walking Man Finds Strength and Purity and the Morning Dew

Tools of the Mystic (The School of the Transfer of Energy Lexicon)

Ministers of Beauty (S.T.E. Lexicon)

Hyper-Symbolic Tools for Use in the Transfer of Energy (S.T.E. Lexicon)

The Book of Jonah

The following is a preliminary in a series of thumbnail sketches attempting to outline the story of Jonah.  These drawings, working out various ways to represent the various parts of the story, are a trial towards making an illustrated book of the story of Jonah.  The book may be a handmade one, possibly of linoleum-block or woodblock prints, or alternatively one which is printed with reproduced ink drawings.

Below is a larger format and more detailed, though unfinished, ink drawing illustrating Jonah building his shelter, as the gourd-vine appointed to grow by God begins to grow behind.

Go On, Bezalel

Go On, Bezalel6

“See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills…” Exodus 31: 2 & 3.

Go On, Bezalel3Bezalel is kind of an early renaissance man, thousands of years before Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, or Durer.  More importantly he was faithful to God’s design of him as a craftsman.  He was  found worthy to build the design of God concerning the tabernacle and all of its parts.  As a craftsman and artist, it is hard to comprehend anything so significant to my earthly labors as to manifest on earth something that was authored in the very heart and mind of God.  Go On, Bezalel5

Go On, Bezalel7

Elizabeth Duffy asked me about influences and progenitors in her interview with me last year.  Here is an excerpt of my response pertaining to Bezalel:  I hope, maybe, to be in the line of Bezalel, who fashioned so much for the tabernacle, making the sacred things that were part of the “technology” of worship of His God for his community. Personally, I couldn’t ask for more than that. Bezalel is valuable as a paradigm of an artisan of broad experience and skill. He could work in many trades and arts with skill worthy of God’s Tabernacle. My good friend reminds me of the value of a man of that breadth of experience and skill in contrast to a culture that places a premium on experts of high degree in a single field. When I wonder if I am hurting myself by embracing so many disciplines, I am grateful for Bezalel and his place in God’s story, and a few other men I have encountered who are champions of excellence in this way.Go On, Bezalel1 The drawing, an imagining of a portion of Bezalel’s tent-workshop, started two or three years ago, finally over the past two months I was able to finish it.  It is composed along the lines of another drawing, Go On, Adam, Breathe.  An potential series of drawings?  The drawing to me feels so limited, compared to the vastness of what could be explored and depicted, as a task to learn about Bezalel, his labors, and his relationship to his God.

Go On, Bezalel4

Provision

provision01

I have been printing an edition of Flying Fish, a copper-plate engraving about the miracle of provision experienced by Thor Heyerdahl and his crew in the Pacific Ocean on their balsa log raft, the Kon Tiki.  This print is for sale at the Baumwerk Etsy store.

provision04 provision06 provision03 provision07 provision09

…a Walking Man drawing for my friend Steven.

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