On Fathers & Sons
This Father's Day in Meeting, I began to reflect on the arc of influence a father has. I considered my grandfathers, my own father, and then my experience as a father.
The one thing that stood out so strongly for me when considering all the fathers in my family was work ethic. Working and providing was a big theme. My father's father worked in the Bronx as a milkman for Sealtest. He delivered milk to three and four-story walkups without elevators. At one point in his career, he drove a team of horses while delivering milk. He worked hard for most of his life; and to him, a job was a way to support his family. The day he turned 64-- he quit, received his pension and social security, and never worked again. I only knew my grandfather as a retired man.
My own father grew up in a time when the notion of work became aligned with self-realization and doing what you love. My father was a professional man. He used the GI bill to go to college and become a chiropractor. Achieving the American Dream was important to him. He worked up until the day he died at age 84. To him, work and life were synonymous. I always understood my father as a doctor and healer -- it permeated his every waking hour.
For myself, I definitely got the work ethic. I like to work and see the value of work, but working (as my grandfather did) to survive, or working as my father did (to achieve the American Dream) has very little interest for me. I hated working for money. I also did not like working for money to fulfill the intentions of other people or corporations. Work to me has become a spiritual practice. If work does not fulfill on SPICES (spirituality, peace, integrity, community, equality and service), I am likely not to engage in it-- opting instead for living a simpler life. Leading a simpler life is a way to do with less.
Wanting less stuff can allow more space for SPICES.
I'm not sure my father or grandfather would understand this way of thinking. We were all inculcated to think that more, more, more was the way. In my life (and especially in the lives of my children), I have seen that more, more, more is not sustainable. We have to begin to think about our work and our economic life in ways that are sustainable and inclusive of not just humans, but all living beings.
My grandfather and my father both had a Cadillac Eldorado. 1959 and 1972 respectively. I don't aspire to an Eldorado.
The work of fathers now and in the future may be to provide the leadership and inspiration to bring about a different kind of Eldorado -- not the mythical empire of gold the Spanish sought, but one in which do not face our own extinction because we have been blinded by greed and grandiosity.
Some of the queries that came to me are:
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