The Grandeur We Behold

Labor Day was Monday and it seemed that all the world was basking in the sunshine and cool breezes, out and about and determined to suck the marrow from the last hoorah of summer.

I found myself wondering about the roots of this holiday, where this weekend that so universally, though unofficially, marks the end of summer came from. So, in the way of super cool kids everywhere, I looked it up on the Department of Labor’s website. This is what I found:

"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

Later, the article quotes one of the contested founders as suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” While I take exception to the 19th century idea that the manipulation of nature for the sole purpose of benefitting and profiting mankind was to be celebrated, I do think that a re-interpretation of his words contain a deep truth: that our own labors and hard work can transform our own own “rude natures” into real grandeur to behold. 

We all know that this is true in the “doing your work” sense of addressing our personal and emotional baggage through everything from therapy to stress-management, etc. But I mean this in the more literal sense of labor and work…in the work of our chosen professions and the work of goal-setting, literally getting shit done.

I think it should be obvious if you’ve ever talked with me for more than five minutes or read anything I’ve written that I am quite firmly in the camp of believers that life is meant to be utterly lived and enjoyed. But I no longer believe that the path of enjoyment or fulfillment or real, lasting happiness is a life of unlimited leisure. On the contrary, I think too much empty leisure is often a good recipe for discontent, listlessness, and dissatisfaction. 

Whether it’s the labor of pursuing excellence in a field or profession that fascinates and excites you, or training for a marathon, or learning to play the viola, or simply the work involved in actually noticing your life and being present with it, there is real joy in work well and truly done. In his book, The Happiness of Pursuit, Chris Guillebeau explores the idea that it’s the pursuit of a challenging quest that brings real and lasting happiness to our lives (by the way, if you haven’t checked out his work, do it- he’s awesome). Alistair Humphreys brings this idea to life over and over in his work, and I am constantly inspired by his investment in small, close to home adventures as well as big, life-altering ones (check out his most recent quest where he taught himself the violin and then busked his way across Spain, singing for his supper). 

So I've come to think of Labor Day as more than just a day to take a well-earned break and bbq with friends, but a celebration of the growth and satisfaction of pursuing our labors, of pushing ourselves to learn and excel, of exploration and discovery that can only come with peeling back the layers of what we’re capable of, of transforming our own rude natures into grandeur.

What grandeurs are you laboring to build in your life? 

Begin It Now.

I was flipping through my tattered copy of Creative Authenticity recently and came across this highlighted passage where the author quoted the following (attributed to both Goethe and W.H. Murray):

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to pull back, always ineffectivess. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. 

Crikey. That passage blows me away. Blows me clean out of the water.

Let's do it. Let's jump.

Let's begin it now.

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El Salvador 2013 Highlights

Things here in El Salvador are going beautifully! 

I was last here in 2013 and I am simply amazed to see all the progress that has been made since that visit! Part of what makes the town of Talnique special is its residents' incredible sense of community and commitment to working hard to make that community as strong as possible. When the students depart back to their lives in the U.S., the residents here simply keep improving upon what has been started. It's humbling and inspiring to see the resourcefulness, creativity, and absolute utility displayed by many of the improvements and the real sense of pride taken in both the beauty and growth of this town!

I can't wait to share some of what I've been shooting here with you next week! In the meantime, be sure to follow along on Instagram and I will leave you with some favorites from that last 2013 experience! 

Stay curious, friends!

Some 2012 El Salvador Favorites!

As I write these words, I am waiting for the last of my laundry to dry so that I can finish packing my bags and head to the airport.

I am heading to El Salvador for my third go-round with the Keene High School Interact Club as they work side by side with residents of the small Salvadorian town of Talnique to move toward their goal of building 100 homes in a ten year period. I am honored to have been invited once again to capture the story of the students, the residents, the town, and a small bit of a country that has shown me nothing but generosity and kindness as well as stunning beauty on my past trips.

I ask that you bear with me over these next weeks as I travel first to El Salvador and then on to Belize…I have some posts scheduled and a few planned (fingers crossed for wifi!) but I've promised myself that all of that will come second to tuning into all that is happening around me, to being fully engaged with the students and residents, to saying yes when opportunities open. I owe you a few more photos from India (and the story of how we came to attend a teaching with the Dalai Lama while we were there) and some from Zurich and Ireland as well, but for now I thought I'd share a few favorites from my first trip to El Salvador back in 2012!