Sometimes, in mid-footfall, I get confused: am I rushing about my work so that I can eat, or am I eating so that I can work? All this striving, where does it tend to, where is the payoff, the "meaning"? "All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. All man's efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied" (Ecclesiastes 1:7; 6:7). Thus the intellectual pursuit of fractions of seconds at traffic lights, or while removing lint from the dryer lint trap. And then I submerge again beneath the surface of thought into the vortex of quotidian events. 'Til next time.
God has given man hard labor under the sun. "You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt." The day trader, in his solitary cubicle, CNBC monitor flickering like an eternal votive flame at the bottom of his screen, is the 21st-century Willy Loman, is he not? One wonders if he will ever emerge from his cell to enjoy his windfall gains. Or if the trading itself has become the thing. It's easy to lose track. What was the goal again?
"Father McKenzie, ... darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there. What does he care?" Or know? The relentless tide of labor sweeps away all philosophy in its slipstream. This is the last great seduction. Satan may here fold his hands and leave more sensational strategies in his arsenal. Not pleasure, not the red-light district, or the glitter of Trump Palace, but work itself, that mantle of dignity bestowed by God on men, how has it become the rock of stumbling? "The people's labor is only fuel for the fire, ... the nations exhaust themselves for nothing" (Habakkuk 2:13).
I know a man who rises at 5 a.m. and comes home at 10 p.m. He has missed first footsteps, first words, family vacations, anniversaries. I know a man who came to America and made a fortune in the New World; he put his back to the plow. He lived a long life and then he died, and left everything to his sons-who were fools. I see gray suits in restaurants with cell phones in their pockets. They cannot enjoy their dinners but they know it not; they think it is convenient.
All this was grievous to me until I considered ...
A man in the Russian Gulag had had enough. He decided he'd carried his last stone from pile A to pile B for his tormentors in this Sisyphean farce. He laid himself down to await execution by shovel blade. Just then a fellow prisoner sidled up and, wordless, traced the shape of a cross in the dust; walked away. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn then gathered himself together and scooped up another rock-this time knowing why.
The rest is history.
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," quoth Henry David Thoreau. But I know a better quote: Malcolm Muggeridge said the happiest person in the world is the woman who sweeps out her house to the glory of God. She is not aware of the grievousness of her days because she has transcended them with knowledge; she has "overcome" and will receive the hidden manna and also a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to her (Revelation 2:17).
Two women working in a field: One has joy, the other not. What makes them differ who outwardly appear equally yoked? Is it not this, that one keeps her eye on the Omega point, the goal to which all streams run?
Ah, Omega point! And thus am I brought to this happy epiphany one day, only to find (why should I be surprised?) that when I arrive at a new conceptual shore, He has arrived ahead of me. He has anticipated my question and given answer-before I ever had the thought, before I ever breached the womb: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," He says (Revelation 21:6). Fix your eyes, o my soul, on the Omega point, and be not unduly bogged down in beta, gamma, and the rest. "Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Corinthians15:58).
Scene 1: Willy Loman, working for Willy Loman, walks in, stage right, carrying two large sample cases: The Death of a Salesman.
Or imagine: Willy Loman, working for Jesus now, walks in, stage right, carrying two large sample cases: new play.