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Meditations on Livelihood

“What is the supreme virtue for a warrior?” Leonidas, the King of Sparta, was asked.

“Contempt for death,” he replied.

(A writer asked himself the same question about his own artistic struggle. His answer, in the manner of Leonidas, was this: “Contempt for failure.” Is this not the heart of all noble work?)

In the Hindu scripture known as the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God), Lord Krishna speaks to a companion about his work.

“You have a right to your labour,” he says, “but not to the fruits of your labour.” Holy detachment! And how can one work actively and yet remain at peace?

Krishna sings:
Give the act to me.
Purged of hope and ego,
Fix your attention on the soul.
Act and do for me
.

(And I am reminded of what Bahá’u’lláh, also from the Divine point of view, wrote over 4000 years later: “Ye are the trees of My garden; ye must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits….It is incumbent on every one of you to engage in…arts, trades and the like. We have made this – your occupation – identical with the worship of God, the True One.” Work as worship. Spirit first, even on the assembly line.)

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