In the beginning, Mystery created the heavens and the earth. He created man in his own image and it was good. Then he created him from dirt, named him “Earth human,” and permitted him to name the animals. But he was alone and it was not good.
From the man’s own flesh and bone, Mystery created a partner for the man and called her, “Lifesaver.” Having learned from Mystery how to name the animals, Earth human gave the woman a parallel name: “Life-giver.”
Mystery gave Earth human and Lifesaver bountiful abundance in a garden of harmony, where delicious fruits of all colors were at their bidding. Two special trees were planted in this garden of harmony: a tree of life and a tree of knowledge. But Mystery forbid Earth human and Lifesaver from taking what he would later command them to seek: knowledge of good and evil. If they ate the fruit of this tree, Mystery told them they’d receive the opposite of the fruit of the other tree: death. Like any child who desires only that which is forbidden, Earth human and Lifesaver ate of this tree.
For Earth human, Mystery proclaimed the consequence of toil at work. Thorns and thistles would rise up for him whenever he tried to work the ground and make a livelihood for himself and his family. Mystery cast the man and woman from the garden and then permitted the man to grow deeper and deeper into his curse. Soon, he was not only battling thorns, but he was also nodding and staggering in a windy land. In time, he battled thorns not only for his own livelihood, but also for an oppressive king who enslaved him.
Only after “mysticism happened to me” did I join the Red Cross as a disaster volunteer. Before then, I was far too sensitive and easily shaken to witness, let alone help, in any incident of severe trauma. Not long ago, normal toil was sufficient to set me on the brink of a breakdown. By day, I held my sword out to attack the myriad of “thorns” the world delivered to me to “toil.” By night, I made myself sick worrying over each one of them.
By contrast, our culture exalts a life of toiling. Those who toil the most are honored the most. Companies advertise their speed, their productivity, and their willingness to perform back flips for their clients. Sometimes, they claim to take on the toil their clients don’t want: “we speed so you don’t have to” (FedEx). Ironically, companies like FedEx, which claim to reduce the burden, only add to everyone’s toil. Not only must the FedEx employees toil on behalf of their clients, FedEx’s clients must toil for their own clients because FedEx exists. Today, of course, when files can be transmitted across the globe with the click of a button, the expectations to “have it yesterday” are even more magnified. Such standards are “thorns” to “toil.”
NPR's July 21 broadcast of Morning Edition finally admits the equation many of us have calculated on our own, but never hear anyone admit: the success of companies and the highs on Wall Street come not in spite of unemployment, but, in part, because of it. Here is how interviewee Economics Editor of the Wall Street Journal David Wessel answered Steve Inskeep’s question about why companies are profiting in spite of unemployment: “One, these big companies are getting a lot of their business overseas, . . . . but another reason is that companies are pursuing relentless cost-cutting, getting more out of each hour of work, so even little increases in sales mean big profits.” Steve Inskeep summarized the idea: “increased productivity.” What Capitalism calls “productivity,” perceptive workers call something else: “toil.”
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Meanwhile, the man reduced the woman’s name from Mystery’s “Lifesaver” and even his own “Lifegiver” to a bewildering new name – “Helpmeet.” This new version of “Lifesaver” confused the man so much that he further mistranslated her name as “Housecleaner,” “Cook” and “Secretary.” . . .
Before progressing to where toil leads, we'll first take a glimpse into the story of the woman . . .