Thursday, January 20, 2011

With My Own Two Hands

I had a little revelation the other night when I was making "Bugs on a Log," one of my favorite childhood snacks, for dinner. For those of you who don't know, Bugs on a Log consists of celery sticks with peanut butter on them and raisins stuck in the peanut butter, looking like little bugs sitting on a log. It is so good. Anyway, making "Bugs on a Log" is a pretty time consuming task because you have to spread the peanut butter in the little trenches of the celery, and the peanut butter I have is the natural kind and it's chunky, so it's really hard to spread. After spreading the peanut butter and filling the little trenches, you have to dig out some raisins and place each one in the peanut butter. I made about 6 "logs," and it took me close to 20 minutes probably. I could have cooked a real dinner in that amount of time! It seems like a bit of a waste, right? I could have delved into something much more convenient and much more filling during that time. That is missing part of the point of eating "Bugs on a Log" in the first place...making it is half the fun! I realized in this process that I love making things with my hands. This is something I have been aware of for a while now, but this process of making a whimsical children's snack reminded me of how much joy I get out of making things with my own two hands.

I got to thinking, since we have been studying Genesis in church lately, about the curse that God proclaims to Adam and Eve. Eve is given the great duty of bearing children in pain (yay) and Adam is to toil and tend to the land. God wants man to work. It's not that Adam has to work to earn anything back from God, God just needs him to keep himself busy so that maybe he has the potential for giving in to fewer distractions in life. God gave man and woman consequences to help them remember the time that they strayed from God. He wants them to remember their dependence on Him.

Now, I don't know about you, but generally I hate the fact that people have to work. I don't even really understand how our society developed into the one it is today, where someone can be working as an iPhone app developer, making a living off of a random job supporting something totally unnecessary. (That's a topic for another day, I think). I am at that point in my life where I am realizing that even though I want to spend my life doing things I want to do, I have to work in order to survive in this society, whether it's a pointless job that aligns with my worldview and life philosophy or not. That may or may not be what God had intended when he cursed Adam with work, but nonetheless, it's the truth of the matter. It's the reality in my society. In American culture I feel like it is often hard to see the purpose of work, but if I think about people living in other places, like Ethiopia, they are working truly to make a living. They grow their own food in order to eat and hopefully to sell the abundance of what they have for a variety of other things that other people might be selling. From childhood, they learn to work with their families and they spend their lives working, too, even though it may not be in order to buy a new car or flat screen TV.

Being unemployed has given me even more insight into the idea of work. I do not like sitting in my apartment doing nothing. It is not as glamorous as it seems! I am usually so bored and unmotivated. When I have work to do or a schedule to follow, I get enjoyment out of that. I feel purposeful, and honestly I just like doing things with my hands. One of my remedies to the lack of work is making work for myself. I cook usually for both lunch and dinner. I don't have a microwave, so when I mean cook, I really mean it. This has been a tremendously enjoyable activity. Not only am I using my hands and working, but I am also using my creativity, thinking about what flavors go well together, what colors would make the dish look more appetizing, and what kinds of tweaking I could do to the recipes to make them my own. It's amazingly therapeutic and a great creative outlet. As some of you know, I have been struggling with expressing myself in the ways that I normally express myself (mostly through making visual art of some kind), but I am glad to see that other outlets have been presenting themselves. Cooking, playing and writing music, writing on my blog and journaling, plus a little art-making on the side makes for a very aesthetically pleasing "work"-filled life.

Sometimes I think that creating for a living would be so satisfying, but then I remember all the times when I was really frustrated because I couldn't create anything for long amounts of time and I don't think that I would like the pressure of my livelihood standing solely on my ability to create. Being a music teacher is the outflow of my creative desires because I get to teach other people how to engage in expression and creativity without having to exhaust myself by creating and expressing my own ideas and feelings on demand.

When I do get a job, the balance between all of those creative processes will have to look a bit different, although I know I will never stop doing those things completely. I'm really okay with that, as expressing myself all the time can sometimes make me feel crazy. Focused self-awareness and expression, although needed, can become daunting and exhausting tasks. Having some other mindless tasks or even tasks that take the focus away from myself will bring the needed balance to my life, not to mention that every Christian in the world who feels they are living the most purposeful life feels that from serving others and not just themselves. The most interesting thing to me, though, is that no matter the circumstances or motives, I always feel the need to be doing something active, measurable, and purposeful with myself, whether I am earning a living from that work or not. We were cursed to toil, and toil we must.

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