As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time — and whenever we do it, we’re not poets.
Come, faeries, take me out of this dull house!
Let me have all the freedom I have lost;
Work when I will and idle when I will!
Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.
—W.B. Yeats, “The Land of Heart’s Desire,” 1894
Image: Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing. William Blake, 1786
Good work uses no thing without respect, both for what it is in itself and for its origin. It uses neither tool nor material that it does not respect and that it does not love. It honors nature as a great mystery and power, as an indispensable teacher, and as the inescapable judge of all work of human hands. It does not dissociate life and work, or pleasure and work, or love and work, or usefulness and beauty. To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonor God, nature, the thing that is made, and whomever it is made for. This is blasphemy: to make shoddy work of the work of God.
―Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
We readily forget what we once knew as children: our flaws are not only natural but integral to our beings. They are interwoven into our soul’s DNA and yet we continually reject the crooked, wrinkled, mushy parts of our life rather than embrace them as the very essence of our beings.
I once believed that aiming for perfection would land me in the realm of excellence. This, however, may not be the trajectory of how things happen. In fact, the pursuit of perfection may be the biggest obstacle to becoming whole.
It seems essential to value hard work and determination and yet recognize that the road to excellence is littered with mistakes and subsequent lessons. Imperfection and excellence are intertwined. There is joy in our pain, strength in weakness, courage in compassion, and power in forgiveness.
―Ann Brasco, “Killing Off Perfectionism”
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.
I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations, and my obligations to society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is; I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?
―Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”
Light and Shade on the Wapiti Trail, Sugarite Canyon SP, Raton, New Mexico by Katherine McDaniel
Be kind in your actions. Do not think that you are the only one who can do efficient work, work worth showing. This makes you harsh in your judgment of others who may not have the same talents. Do your best and trust that others do their best. And be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
―Mother Teresa, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers