Friday, April 19, 2019

Misunderstanding the Value of Diligence

"There is no happiness for man but to eat and drink and to be content with his work" (Qoheleth 2:24). So begins an article by a specialist in the science of the mind in the Kyeongyang magazine on confusion surrounding the word diligence.

Honesty and diligence are considered desirable traits, an advisable strategy for life. Those living in this way will enjoy life more than the lazy and listless. A natural law of life that all accept. However, is that the reality? 

In Korea we use a lot of Konglish and recently a new word appeared which in English would be: 'Work+ Life+Balance'. In Korean they have taken the first syllable of the three words and made the word  "Wolabal"(Finding a suitable balance between work and daily living)—not always realized.

Koreans are not lazy and presently have either the first or second place in the hours worked among nations of the world. Speed is also one of the traits recognized both by Koreans and others. But is being busy the same as being diligent? Not having time to look around at our surroundings but always ready to move on to our next spot is that considered healthy and human? Laziness is not the opposite of diligence. Thomas Aquinas considered sadness a part of laziness. The world of pyschology also sees laziness containing spiritlessness. Laziness is one of the capital sins and the distinction in our tradition was not always clear distinquishing between sloth and  melancholia.

Moderns have all their time filled up. They are  busy with many things. Who can call the present age lazy? But they are not present to the moment. At work they worry about the home. At a meeting they are cocerned about other things. Climbing a mountain they talk about their work and miss the beauty of the mountain. In the subway they are busy with their smartphones and even in the bathroom, relieving nature, are not present to what they are about.

Heavy-heartedness and laziness lead to a lack of desire and joy in life. We are busy being busy and forget what the important things in life are and should be. If time is taken away from our own growth, those we love, the family what is gained? It's 'busy laziness'.

We can imagine we were born with a silver spoon in our mouths. What would we do? We would resign from our work we don't enjoy, get rid of the harnesses that prevent us from living the full life,  spend more time with family. But we are faced with something strange, for if we compare ourselves with  our ancestors, we are all born with a silver spoon?

To live a happy life the minimum condition is not  so demanding. To satisfy our expectations we need the leisure of wisdom to enjoy life that we have been given. The most valuable resource that we have is time. When diligence exceeds the degree necessary we are actually wasting valuble time.

In ancent times those that achieved great wealth and power were not always seen by those who went to bed hungry and lacked clothing as people to imitate. But those who are busy about much have much to learn from this. In the past precious time was sold to buy possessions which we mistook as diligence; today with wisdom gained we are diligent in making time to enjoy life. "Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, under the sun, what does man gain by it?" (Ecc. 1:3)

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