Not To Work, But To Be Worked Upon
It is not enough to say that we work in the garden. The garden, with its soil, plants, insects, birds, and sky above, also works upon us . . . if we are open to it, if we are not too dogged in our work, too narrowly focused, too wrapped up in our projects, agendas and ‘To-Do’ lists. We have only come part way if we forget we have come here to be ‘worked upon,” to be kneaded and pummeled, to rise above the small self . . . to enter into the measureless open:
Let a man learn to look for the permanent in the mutable and fleeting; let him learn to bear the disappearance of things he was wont to reverence, without losing his reverence; let him learn that he is here, not to work, but to be worked upon; and that, though abyss open under abyss, and opinion displace opinion, all are at last contained in the Eternal Cause. –
“If my bark sink, ’tis to another sea.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Representative Men – Montaigne; Or the Skeptic
(NOTE: Emily Dickinson recycles the final lines of Ellery Channing’s “A Poet’s Hope,” in her first two lines of “If my Bark sink/ ’tis to another Sea-” (F1250, 1872).