Hale: Christmas karma | AspenTimes.com

Hale: Christmas karma

David Hale
David Hale
David Hale

Do you love your job, or do you hate it? In a resort, like Aspen/Snowmass, Christmas comes with deadlines and, with deadlines, comes stress. Everything has to be done by now. Everyone feels the pressure — contractors, property managers, maintenance departments, interior designers, etc. “Can you get this done?”, “I need you to …”, “Can you do this for me?” It’s the final push, and patience is wearing thin. Yes, everyone’s  job sucks sometimes, and, around here in the construction trades, a lot of suckiness coincides with Christmas.

But, it’s all temporary. It’s going to pass. All this frenzy slows down by January. Units are occupied. Outside work eases up or stops. Take a deep breath. It’s a nice break. Go ski, or learn a new winter sport. Hang out with friends. Re-introduce yourself to family.

And, we tradesmen, sub-contractors, general contractors need to remind ourselves: It’s not all that bad. Look on the bright side. There is indeed a satisfaction in creating things, of fixing things, of making something “old” look good again. That’s pretty cool. And, when an owner/client is appreciative and happy, that’s awesome, too. Not to mention we generally get to choose our hours, take off whenever we want (sometimes), pick who we want to work for, and, last but not least, we make a pretty decent living.

I also have a side gig besides being a contractor. I teach. For fun, believe it or not. Last week at school, I heard that familiar “Oh-woe-is-me” from two different professors. Friends of mine. More venting about jobs. Granted, the demands on the full-time faculty are intense. Serving on committees, advising students, endless data entry, and so on. To top it off, the pay is pretty bad — around $60,000 a year. That doesn’t go far if you have a mortgage and kids.

There’s a bright side here, as well. Seeing a student-kid finally “get it” is incredibly rewarding. Watching them change from lost and confused freshmen to more “adult” seniors with a purpose is a miracle. They have “grown up” in a major or minor area of study that’s going to be a part of the rest of their life. Playing a part in all that is rewarding like nothing else.

So, how do you want to look at it? Is your glass half empty or half full? It’s not really about “Doing what you love,” as people commonly say, but rather learning to “love what you do.”

I, for one, didn’t always love what I do. For a long time, I hated what I do. But, after teaching and working in the trades for 40 years, many of my fellow contractors, faculty, tradesmen, property managers, students, and owners have become close friends. I cherish those relationships. I have also gotten pretty good at what I do. Did I mention I also own a lot of cool tools?

OK, let’s get on to the karma part of this little exhortation. Karma plays an important role in the teaching and philosophy of Samkhya-Yoga. This kind of karma-yoga has nothing to do with bad people getting their comeuppance or how flexible you are. The karma-yoga I am referring to is found in the Bhagavad-Gita. This is probably the most revered text in all of Indian religion and philosophy. A line in the Gita states: “Do your work as a sacrifice, free from all attachment.” I take this to mean we should do our jobs without thinking of how much we’re getting paid or whether the the owner appreciates us enough. Instead we need to think about how we can do the best job possible.

In the Bible, we find a sentiment similar to the Gita’s karma-yoga. It is in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, where he says, “Whatever your task, work heartily, as if serving the Lord and not men …” This probably doesn’t mean squat to someone who is an atheist or someone who believes that Gozer the Destroyer is Lord. However, a Christian might want to think twice before sweeping crumbs under the rug or taking that extra 15 minutes on their half-hour lunch break.  

Work gives meaning to life. What you do, who you do it for, who you do it with. That is all about who we are and who we want to be. It’s all part of the big picture of living life. It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

The last recession wasn’t so long ago, and the next one probably not so far off. So, maybe we should all appreciate, if not cherish, what we’ve got here and now. Isn’t that what being present is all about?

Don’t be a drag — be a gift. Give a dollar or two to the Salvation Army. Write a check to the Denver Rescue Mission (They need it). Call up a relative or friend you haven’t talked in a while. Be nice to the maintenance manager when he asks you to repair a water destroyed ceiling five days before Christmas. (Just happened.) Laugh. Smile. It’s all fun. It’s Christmas.     

David Hale earned a joint Ph.D. from the University of Denver and the Iliff School of Theology in Philosophy, Religion, and Cultural Theory. He is a lecturer in philosophy at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. He lives in Snowmass, where he works full time as a contractor and lives with his wife, Susan, dog-child, Bodhi, and their cat, Black Kitty.