By: Joseph Daylover
For all of my twenties I shunned the idea of the service. Fresh out of grad school and teaching part time, what I valued most was lying in the grass by the river or hanging with comrades, not working to have adult things. I didn’t have health insurance, a nice car, or take vacations, the things of the full-time working world. Instead, I worked toward working as little as possible, stacking up a few part-time jobs onto three, sometimes two days per week. You can get away with this as a part-time college prof, a life of stipends and spontaneity.
As a teacher I was decent, but I cared more about things that didn’t make me any money, Writing and Theatre. My only problem was that I let my idea of work get tied up with American capitalism, the grind, the herd, as they say. Working to have things. Like Tyler Durden says, “we work jobs we hate, so that we can buy shit we don’t need.” Much as I love books like Fight Club, I overate on the idea, believing work to mean servitude to an unchallengeable system. Why work for that?
My thinking started to shift when I read “The World’s Religions” by Hustom Smith. The chapter on Hinduism describes various Yogas, or pathways to God; among them are Knowledge, Love, Exercise (Yoga), and Work. Wait—work? As a method for knowing liberation? Wasn’t work a conspiracy to serve the selfish elite, a greedy machine? Smith explains, karma yoga (knowing God through work) means, “you can find God in the world of everyday affairs as readily as anywhere.” Moreover, “he who performs actions without attachment, resigning them to God, is untainted by their effects as a lotus leaf by water.” Hold on a second—I could work for service to God and not the ruling classes? The Bhagavad Gita says, “...do this an offering to Me. Thus you shall be free from the bondages of actions that bear good and evil results.”
So it seems that with work we become caught up with personal reward, likely to stoke the ego, materialism, all that jazz. But with service, our duties carry a sacred force which fulfills others in service of God. This equals the shift from the finite to the infinite self. My old stance of “fuck the machine” meant I was stuck in the finite, in empirical reward or loss. With an eye toward the infinite, I saw how much my life revolved around service in fact. While working part-time, I helped found and build GLM, this very Theatre we’re in. Most work here is volunteer, done in service of art, of patrons, among other things. I also rewrote my Master’s thesis into a novel; wasn’t this an attempt to serve readers an entertaining tale and worthy ideas? I had helped build a garden out back. You get the idea.
Everything is service, but that is a choice. So I chose to become a better teacher, to see the divine in talking about how to write proper conclusions, to foster true connection when responding to my student’s essays. Obligation became purpose, a mission to serve the divine. In doing so, I found a truer vocabulary, a vocation within the campus confines. Admittedly, it’s hard to find vocation in most jobs, to not resent the idea of service in the culture we live in. The demands are great, and the true rewards are not advertised. The machine is real, but we choose whom to serve.
What kind of life would you lead if you had no fear? #AlchemistMovement