Work vs. Vacation

The word “Summer” alone evokes a certain feeling of relaxation, calm, and a less intense life. For those in the work world, summer can translate as a break from the action, with less pressure, deadlines, and more leisure. This serves as a great opportunity, not to just reminisce and ruminate on those feelings of a “mid-summers night dream”, but to focus on the deeper significance of our lives.

Vacation comes from the word vacate- to leave something behind. What exactly are we vacating? Is work the purpose of our lives and now we are vacating that very purpose, or at least slowing down our efforts? How should we view our work?

Europeans say that Americans live to work while Europeans work to live. Once upon a time ago, the ancient Greeks and Romans viewed work, not as virtue, but rather as a labor. The enlightened intellectuals of the time viewed themselves as above work, focusing on their own intellectual, academic, and spiritual growth. They believed such tasks were reserved for servants and the “lesser of people”.  In later centuries, with the development of the Calvinist idea of protestant work ethic, work transformed into a virtue: word hard, be virtuous, ethical, and work itself can be elevated. So, is work part of the essence of our beings or just a means to an end?

Our Two Voices

The Summer sheds light on the deeper aspects of what our very being is about. We are not physical beings on a spiritual journey, but rather spiritual beings on a physical journey. A person doesn’t vacate life. The word vacation implies we are vacating from something we don’t see as primary, even though it might be necessary. Each one of us has two voices inside of us which shapes our reality depending on which voice is doing the talking. How does each of these voices portray the idea of work?

Let’s call one of these voices the voice of survival which focuses primarily on surviving, paying your bills, making ends meet, and acquiring everything you need in order to exist. Contrast this with the second voice which remains unsatisfied with routines, patterns, just getting by, and surviving. This is our transcendent voice. The transcendent voice seeks, searches and even aches for something deeper in life.  This can manifest itself through literature, art, music, romance, love, intimacy, religion, or spirituality. All of these things address a more ethereal and less tangible need within us which desires to seek, look upward, and want more. The transcendent voice lays responsible for our immense human growth in areas of ethics, morality, and advancements in technology and science which create a higher standard of living.

Battle of the Voices: Helping Yourself or Helping Another

These two voices are conflicting and battling each other almost all of the time, forcing us to make the constant choice of serving myself or another. Myself or a high cause. If you live an ego-centric/ “me” oriented life, then both work and vacation are self-oriented. The only difference is that one is invested in work, deadlines, and pressure, while the other is focused on relaxing and calming down. Juxtapose this with a “higher centric” life, driven by a higher spiritual cause, and work and vacation become liberating avenues for you to take your spiritual journey, albeit with different qualities. When viewed through this lens, your spiritual journey continues and you don’t “vacate” from a higher oriented way of living.

Summer Transcendence

We all have that transcendent voice and summer time, with its less pressure, offers us a great opportunity to tap into it and look within. The COVID pandemic forced us to step back and travel inward as a result of the disruption and upheaval of our comfort zones. So why not do this willingly? The motions and routines of life place us in a grove which makes it hard to step back and search within our souls (almost like a broken record in the patterns of our existing lives). Transitions serve as opportunities to look at our lives and the world with a fresh set of eyes, similar to a child’s astonishment towards everything they see. All we have to do is tap into it. Sometimes our development of old attitudes blinds us from this type of vision and dulls us from appreciating the existing freshness all around us.

Summer time is the time to look deeper into your own soul, explore what you really stand for, and put your work and vacation into the proper context. Every moment of our lives and every place we travel has been waiting since the beginning of time for you to arrive and do a good deed- something no one else did before you. A person might be travelling to some exotic location, but realize you are not going there just to rest up and take in the beautiful weather. Rather, there is something waiting to happened, and it is usually best experienced when you don’t make plans. So, wherever you go, even though you have plans, be open to the spontaneity and realize there is more going on behind the scenes- a secret choreography that has been painted and waiting for you

Seize the opportunities which the summer offer.  As the shackles of material pressures loosen from our work lives, harness the extra time for deeper spiritual introspection (soul searching). Ask yourself the question: why am I here? Some will answer only to take care of themselves, to be happy, or maybe have no clue at all as to why they are here. The truth is that you are here for a purpose and every move you make is an opportunity to fulfill that purpose. Allow yourself to be open to everything around you and not just your own self-created script of life.