Mandela’s Radiance Came In Part From Working His Prison Rooftop Farm

To be of use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine and oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Copyright 1982 by Marge Piercy
from Circles on the Water
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The Case for Working With Your Hands
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The Mind At Work

Great Stuff. Along the same lines, I’d also recommend “The Mind at Work,” by Mike Rose. He explores the daily decisions and quality of thought done by workers who primarily use their hands but are also employed in the service industry.
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Last edited by Commonwealth Citizen. Based on work by Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on June 12, 2009

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