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What Are People For?

In this new era of complexities and uncertainties, the man has led himself to move into the intricacies and unprecedented different shades of city life, intricately involving himself into the life that no doubt takes you towards the career growth but also takes you away from the roots of your culture. This is what the essence of Work culture, in What are People For? In this story, Wendell Berry narrating his own experience, while walking one Sunday Afternoon with his older friend he happened to come across a decaying log house that once belonged to his grandparents and great-grandparents.

This house stirred my friend’s memory and he related the time when the old-time people used to visit each other in the evening, especially in the long evenings during winter season. It was a routine affair among them to sit till bedtime, after supper, and narrate stories and most of them who were not too tired, neighbors would walk across the fields to visit each other; they popped corn, ate apples and tell the tales and narrate their experiences of the day with each other, about themselves, living again in their own memories and thus keeping their memories alive. And among the hearers were always the children.

When the time came, the visitors lit their lanterns and went home. My friend talked about this, and thought about it, and then he said, “They had everything but money. ” Though they have enough time to share their joys and sorrows with each other yet they were poor, and had local economy to help each other, and had each other’s comfort when they most needed. And now in this contemporary Society people are indulged with the talks with neighbors but their talks are only confined to their career and vocation, how much money they wish to earn and wants to earn and how much leisure items they can possess or in possession of in their homes.

The descendents of those people who enjoys the nature, who enjoys the company of neighbors, have now shifted themselves towards the most mechanized life with the people shifting themselves from this world in a quest of own “career and vocation” naturally to amass the luxuries bestowed to them by the very nature and local culture but paradoxically, in this quest they are destroying very roots of culture from which is born their own identity.

Once Wendell Berry, walked down an old fencerow in a wooded hollow in his own grandfather’s farm, and what he witnessed was the nature’s magic of rebirth again and again and how the people in their career pursuit, though destroys their very essence of roots yet again and again nature is reborn to where it is destroyed to again rebuild the career. He saw a battered galvanized bucket hanging on a fence post near the head of the hollow, and what was going on in that bucket was the most momentous thing to know, the greatest miracle that was have ever heard of: it is making earth.

This old bucket was hung there since centuries, through many autumns, with leaves fallen around it and some have fallen into it. In-fact Rain and Snow have also fallen into it, but the fallen leaves have held the moisture and so have rotted. Even nuts have fallen into it, or carried into it by squirrels; or mice and squirrels must have eaten the meat of the nuts and left the shells; In-fact many other animals have also left their droppings; insects have flown into the bucket and died and decayed; birds have scratched in it and left their droppings or perhaps a feather or two.

This work of growth and death, gravity and decay, which is the chief work of the world, has been happening since centuries, and have produced in the bottom of the bucket several inches of black humus. Wendell Berry was fascinated by this nature’s wonder as there was artistry and a farming far superior then of humans. This old bucket had been hanging on that post since last fifty years. When grandfather’s black hired hands on an early spring day burned a tobacco plantbed, and they took along some eggs to boil and eat with their dinner.

When dinner came time, they look around for something to boil the eggs in, but they could find only an old bucket that at one time had been filled with tar in which they would boil the egg but much to their amusement the egg turned black. According to Windell Berry, though this story seems to be trivial but it is a symbol of work and culture- the culture with which you are associated with.

In their pursuit of career, they must not forget their culture, but paradoxically in this quest they are destroying very roots of culture from where is born their own identity? Actually, for some work is a vehicle to ensure financial security, for some it is a step towards prosperity and for some it is an identity that people associate himself or herself with. Therefore Discipline cannot suffice alone unless the word of affection towards the society and work both comes.

To have a vocation simply for paying the bills reduces work to a meaningless and mundane routine that extracts from you the essence of peace and love life, and you will definitely feel guilty of idolatry and all efforts to build an identity around our profession becomes an entirely futile exercise. And the career itself should be pursued for intended outcome for the highest quality and productivity. Our goal and career path should be reflective of our culture and adopts the vocation that underpins an unwavering integrity in the work of nature. We should all be associated with our land and culture and move to achieve the goals with dignity.

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