Men at Work stories

One of my students is doing an internship with William Bennet and has asked for my help. I thought I’d tap into you readers of this blog, who always manage to come up with some really good ideas on just about every subject. I’ll let the student explain what he needs:

I am working on a research project for Mr. William Bennett on Manliness and I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction.

The book is divided into various sections of manliness, such as Men at War, Men at Play, etc.

We are currently looking for excerpts from literature, history, biographical, and essays, from all of human history (I know, a rather modest goal) that deal with Men at Work. These excerpts should ideally depict good men with an exceptional work ethic. But they can also show the negative as an example of what NOT to do.

Are there any quotes, essays, stories, or great men from history that have inspired you to work hard and that depict good, hard working men? I know your specialty is English Literature. Are there maybe one or two examples from your field that exemplify hard work?

Any help at all would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

So we are looking for writings about men acting in vocation, specifically, the workplace. I thought of Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea.” What else

UPDATE:  My student and Mr. Bennett won’t be able to anthologize whole books, so are there episodes in specific novels that would be good to use?  (For example, I cited the scene in Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” in which Ivan builds a brick wall and how that honest, satisfying, constructive labor gave him a sense of meaning even in the indignities of the Soviet prison camp.)  He could also use examples from non-fiction (Studs Terkel’s “Working,” as has been mentioned), as well as quotations, etc.

The vocation of a knife-maker

HT: Rich Shipe

Songs about Vocation

As I mentioned, I’ve been doing a series of interviews on Issues, Etc., about the new edition of my book Spirituality of the Cross Revised Edition. When we were talking about my chapter on Vocation, the producers were playing some music to go along with it.

One piece was Bob Dylan’s You’ve Got to Serve Somebody!

Another was even more to the point, Eric and Polly Rapp’s More Than Enough. What a good song! Click to the site and listen to it. Here are the lyrics:

More Than Enough
(© 2006 Eric Rapp. All rights reserved.)

Look around you–who is your neighbor?
Who do you see here in need of God’s love?
Look around you–because of the Savior
What you’re doing for them is more than enough

When you go to work, where a day seems a lifetime,
you’re asking is this what God wants you to do
Take comfort in this: your boss is your neighbor
you’re doing good works God prepared just for you

Look around you–who is your neighbor?
Who do you see here in need of God’s love?
Look around you–because of the Savior
What you’re doing for them is more than enough

A woman stays home feeding her baby,
changing the diapers and cleaning the clothes
She can do this with joy because of the Savior
God’s will for her now is in front of her nose

Look around you–who is your neighbor?
Who do you see here in need of God’s love?
Look around you–because of the Savior
What you’re doing for them is more than enough

When evening comes and your head hits the pillow
and you think that your life doesn’t seem up to snuff
Be glad in the Lord and all that he gave you
what he did on that cross was more than enough

Look around you–who is your neighbor?
Who do you see here in need of God’s love?
Look around you–because of the Savior
What you’re doing right now is more than enough
What you’re doing right now is more than enough

The Rapps are a folk duo who became Lutheran converts. Check out their website and buy their CDs.

What are some other songs about Vocation?

Online family businesses

Bruce Gee is a long-time friend, baseball comrade, and commenter on this blog.   He makes and repairs furniture for a living.   He just put together this website for his business, Heartland Furniture. I thought I’d give him a plug.

He’s done work for us–fixing up an old cedar chest that had been in the family for years but was all banged up, refinishing some furniture that badly needed it–and he’s really good. I realize that you might not live in Wisconsin to avail yourself of his services, but he might be able to do something for you. If nothing else, admire his work.

We’re celebrating vocation. I’ve always admired craftsmen of every kind. If you have a similar at-home business with a website, I invite you to give the link in a comment.

Campaigning vs. Governing

Might the skill sets necessary for getting elected be incompatible with the skill sets necessary for actually governing?  Now that our politicians are in constant campaign mode–which requires pie-in-the-sky promises and unrealistic rhetoric–does that, by its very nature, prevent them from solving actual problems?

Such scary thoughts are inspired by economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson.  He chastizes both liberals (for running up huge deficits with no concern for the consequences) and conservatives (for insisting on tax cuts even in the face of those huge deficits).  Then he cuts to the problem:

Governing is about making choices. By contrast, the la-la politics of both left and right evade choices and substitute for them pleasing fictional visions. . . .

The common denominator is a triumph of electioneering over governing. Every campaign is an exercise in make-believe. All the good ideas and good people lie on one side. All the “special interests,” barbarians and dangerous ideas lie on the other. There’s no room for the real world’s messy ambiguities, discomforting contradictions and unpopular choices. But to govern successfully, leaders must confront precisely those ambiguities, contradictions and choices.

The make-believe of campaigns increasingly shapes the process of governing. Whether this reflects cable TV and the Internet — which reward the harsh hostility of extreme partisanship — or the precarious balance between the two parties or something else is hard to say. But the disconnect between policy and the real world is harmful. Proposals tend to be constructed more for their public relations effects than for their capacity to solve actual problems.

The result is a paradox. This electioneering style of governing strives to bolster politicians' popularity. But it does the opposite. Because partisan rhetoric creates exaggerated expectations of what government can do, people across the ideological spectrum are routinely disillusioned. Because actual problems fester — and people see that — public trust of political leaders erodes.

via Robert J. Samuelson – Both parties fall prey to make-believe politics – washingtonpost.com.

Something else to bring down our republic: If there is an intrinsic disconnect between the political process in a democracy and the necessities of governing, our system of government is doomed. And yet, in our history, there have been statesmen who were effective in both realms. Do you think these are two incompatible vocations?

The vocation of a child

The post yesterday from Christopher Tollefsen about homeschooling referred to the vocation of a child. Luther too said that being a child is a vocation, just as being a husband, wife, father, or mother is a calling from God. So, what is involved in the vocation of childhood? Who are the child’s neighbors whom he or she is to love and serve? What is the work entailed in childhood? How does this vocation change as the child grows from infancy through adulthood?


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