28 It is weary to toil at the same tasks and be always beginning
Even those who do not habitually read the Bible may remember at this point the very similar verses from Ecclesiastes,
Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What do people gain from all the toil
at which they toil under the sun?
Life is hard work, and harder than ever over the last few months. I have recently managed to have some holiday, and I don’t think I’ve ever needed it more. I feel deeply for those whose lives have not allowed them to have a break.
We all need rest. Not just now, but in the rhythm of our lives. The pandemic seems to have only accentuated the division in our society, between those who are over-busy, in even more demand than ever, and those who suddenly find that they’re not needed, that they’re surplus to requirements. That was always a great evil, and if it gets worse, it may end up creating a dangerous chasm through the middle of our communities to the extent that we are no longer aware of our unity.
It’s not just a question of having a break. We need to have a deeper sense of what it means to live a balanced life. I’d like us to be able to move beyond the idea of a ‘work-life balance’ – because it’s a false comparison, but one we’re often forced into when our paid work bears so little relationship to our own vocation and calling. I believe each of us has work to do which is both a unique contribution to society, and fulfilling for ourselves. Work should not be the opposite of life! What we need is a vision of life which includes both work and rest, for all of us. And the work we need is that which feels like life: work which connects with our own skills and abilities and not just endless and repetitive toil.