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Perfection of the life, or of the work

It’s happening again. The grant deadline looms on the horizon like an inevitable thunderstorm. I can see it dumping rain on my neighbor’s house, and I’m scrambling to get everything tied down at my place before it’s too late.

This is usually the point in the grant writing process when I become a workaholic, but I also start dreaming about a way out — the bookstore Kate and Dave and I been talking about for years. The grant writing business is feast or famine. I pretend sometimes this doesn’t bother me because it generally works itself out into a well-balanced diet. But I know I would be more content with a steady stream of less, as long as I was doing something I loved.

And so I start thinking about the meaning of calling and the ancient conception of economic justice, which is that everyone should be free to pursue their God-given vocation. I start to measure my life against  the wisdom of my heroes and mentors. Today, W.B. Yeats’s poem “The Choice” is seared into my brain:

The intellect of man is forced to choose
perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.

One comment on “Perfection of the life, or of the work

  1. […] this point I was getting curious. I put in yet another recent blog post. No kidding, the results come back the same: I write like David Foster […]

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