Today I added sweeping the street onto the list of sage-like work. The last few months I’ve been doing some noxious tasks that everyone else avoids. Chopping wood, carrying water, shoveling snow. They are the traditional things that the classic sages have been doing for centuries, and my simple idea is that if it worked for them maybe it would help me too. But, today out at the UU church all the snow was melted away, there was no wood to chop, and no water to carry. Actually, there is a large bowl of water that I always put out near the front door for the blind people’s companion dogs. I’ve done that for two years, since moving into our new building, but never thought of it as a spiritual exercise. Perhaps it is. Shoveling a half kilometer of snow several times was real guru work, but that’s all melted. What did appear was a lot of gravel that had been sprinkled on the roads and some on the paved walkways too. It wasn’t really a problem walking over, just a little crunchy, but it was irregular and looked messy. I was there a half hour early so I got the big steel bristle push broom and went to work. It turned out to be harder than I expected because some of the gravel had piled up to an inch thick and congealed and didn’t push around easily. I was still at work when the choir’s music wafted in from the distance. The gravel will still be there next week but their singing and today’s sermon won’t wait.
After the service, I gathered up an armload of decorative stones that I’ve been bringing to put in our labyrinth. It isn’t any sort of UU religious ritual, just a fun thing to go walk around and think about whatever comes to mind. I’ve brought one every week for the last two years, so that is approximately a hundred five-inch diameter stones that I have left near the entrance. Then every once in a while I carry some of them the hundred yards down the hill to where the decorative labyrinth is situated in a lightly forested area. Other people sometimes consider my stones litter and either carry them down to the labyrinth or throw them in the trash. I don’t know, but I don’t notice them filling in the gaps in the labyrinth’s decorative stonework. Anyway, the fact that my carefully selected stones seem to vanish gives me an opportunity to let the work that I do be just be the work that I do. It’s like Sisyphus the Greek guy who pushed a big rock up a mountain only to have it be rolled back down by a vengeful god. Sisyphus is working hard, and moving the stone up the hill is his job, so he does it. It’s there at the bottom to be done again tomorrow, so he does it again. It’s his job, and I’ve got mine.
Today I swept gravel off the streets and sidewalks. It’s a thing I get to do.