Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up –Cyprian Norwid (Polish poet)
A girl–even a girl who cares very much about economics and school choice–can only read and summarize working papers for so long until she has to take a break for something beautiful. Something less useful. I came across this quote in a letter from Pope John Paul II, discovered through my brother’s recent blog post, and it struck a chord. Perhaps because he goes on to discuss a remarkable Greek word, kalokagathía which signifies the incarnation of goodness in the form of beauty, or because my cottage endured a glorious bout of spring cleaning this morning, I am quite sure that beauty is the one thing that we all desperately need more of. Especially in ourselves.
But what does it mean that beauty excites us for work? Beautiful things tend to resonate with us, and when we allow ourselves to be allured, they can draw us from where we are to where we ought to be. The power of beauty is that it resonates, but just not enough. We have to change if we want to feel at peace in the presence of a beautiful artwork, musical composition, or personality. I felt this just a moment ago during my pre-class morning procession to the coffeeshop, over the well-worn cobblestones, past spring’s sweet-smelling trees, and under the light blue and light coral sky.
Beauty will humble us, then work exalts us. I am drawing completely from my personal experience here– the best feeling that I know arrives when I rest my head on my pillow after a full day of fruitful work. Whether it’s a long, refreshing run, a completed paper, or painted canvas for a birthday gift, we humans love looking over our shoulder and seeing progress. Work was made for us. Sure, it’s terribly frustrating, and the space between where I am and where I want to be seems insurmountable at least once a day (especially during those hours right before lunch), but beauty comes in and reminds us of the reward.
“You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.”
Beauty, truth, and goodness return us back to our right selves. They grant not only practical clarity, but pure excitement as well. It is precisely this reason why we should all care very much about surrounding ourselves with beautiful things and beautiful people, in our home, at work, and at play. It turns out that bare, useful things aren’t quite useful enough to complete the work we seek to complete.
And still the real crux of the matter has yet to be mentioned. At the end of the day, Peter Kreeft had it right in his lecture on the Sea when he spoke that we don’t want to possess beauty, but instead what we find we really want is to be entirely possessed by it. Just as the sea engulfs us as we rush into the waves, so we want to be engulfed by Beauty.
As Creighton’s campus was prepared in celebration of our new President’s inauguration this week (welcome, welcome Fr. Hendrickson!!), verses from Gerard Manley Hopkins–a Jesuit priest and poet–were flashed across the screens of the business school. I was happily reminded of one of my long-time favorite poems, which in turn never fails to remind me to gratefully behold all of the beauty enveloping us:
And man, did I need that reminder. It’s funny how easily we forget the things that we once knew, and I had surely forgotten that amongst my other whirlwind of duties, I have a duty to myself and others to simply take delight in the wonders of this world. We are given our days and our daily bread; truly the only thing that God allows to be overflowing in our lives are His blessings. Therefore, this fresh Sunday morning, I’ve decided to pen a humble little “thankful list”:
As I watch the bustling streets and looming buildings out this large picture window, steamy soy cappuccino in hand, Omaha actually feels like a real city! And this lull of coffeehouse melodies warms the heart just the same. They say it best in their own words: “our mission is to provide a place to feel a sense of community, and a healthy amount of indulgence…” Amen to that!
Each Saturday, I do my best to teach ten 8th graders about God, the Catholic Church, and the powerful sacrament of Confirmation. I do my best to keep it interesting with field trips outside, healthy snacks, and fascinating stories about saints. What they probably don’t know is that the whole time, they’re the ones teaching me about God.
So we girls had a jolly potluck on Friday night, and as I conquered the (super simple) recipes for Glazed Mexican Chocolate Popcorn and Pumpkin Popcorn (because pumpkin is KING this time of year), I was reminded of the simple joy of cooking. I may still burn the toast from time to time, but you can bet that this is a skill I will be practicing relentlessly. 🙂
We like to spend our nights exploring the little town of Omaha on bikes, discovering the best friend-date spots, cooking and arguing over who gets to clean up after, and giving inspirational speeches to each other. They act as my mothers, guardian angels, and my best friends simultaneously, need I say more?
There is something about the exhilarating sense of freedom that comes from zipping from one location to another, always with the option to take a spontaneous detour. So much taken for granted, the ability to go where I want, when I want, is a power like none other.
It may not have been the most manly gift, but with all the good autumn deals, I simply could not resist sending the Head of the Jace Household a lovely bouquet of fall blossoms and chocolate for his birthday (it may have been two for one…so our lovely cottage may have a delivery in store as well…). Also, please notice the cover photo of this post– the community around my cabin takes it upon themselves to plant an entire sea of sunflowers each year, encompassing a vast stretch of country highway. Now that is something to be thankful for!
Though my personal role in actual fall harvests are confined to exuberant visits to pumpkin patches and apple orchards, we can all hurrah in the harvest of the fruits of our labors and be thankful for the opportunity to devote our time and efforts to meaningful learning and work. Please enjoy another Hopkins poem below, as fall, in all her crisp glory, is coming fast upon us!
Whether you’re looong past your interning days or just about to make your interning debut in the flourishing business ecosystem, it does one good to step back and put yourself in the shoes of an intern: essentially a paid observer, learner, and most importantly value-adder. To get really metaphorical (you’ve probably picked up on this annoying theme throughout my writings), who among us is not an intern in the business of life, where we observe, learn, and add value until we hopefully pass onto something better? Here are ten internship best practices, in my humble opinion:
1. Always say hi to the girl in line next to you.
Maybe you both have a passion for delicious salads, or maybe you could both go on for hours about your favorite historical sites, but definitely find a way to make a friend out of all those new faces. Everyone will most likely be on the overwhelmed side of nervousness on the first day, so finding an ally in the room can work wonders.
2. Develop birdwatching skills.
The business world is loud, competitive, and busy with started-from-the-bottom-now-I’m-here mentalities. Here’s a way to stand out: be quiet and simply watch (not to be confused with having a glazed-over-I’m-bored sort of expression.) Absorb! Never have I ever regretted paying attention and being observant. Remember names like they’re the words to your favorite song. Watch carefully how people treat each other, since it reveals their true colors every time. And especially, be open and curious to learn about whatever crosses your path.
A great way to exercise intelligence is to gather it first.
3. Never be afraid to speak up and give a compliment.
I’ve had my heaping share of shy days (when I get this itch to drive far away and melt into the background of some obscure diner) but this is a fabulous people-rule that will never let you down. Genuine compliments are (almost) a foolproof way to initiate conversation and plant the seeds of respectful and trusting relationships. People love to feel noticed. In case that’s not enough to spur you to action, just think about how great you feel when on the receiving end of a meaningful compliment. Hello, walking-on-sunshine type of feelings!
4. In general, take care of your team work first and then begin your personal projects.
Pretty soon into the internship, a lot of offers to work on projects both in teams and individually will begin to flow in. In most cases, tackling your portion of the teamwork is a best practice as there are others relying upon you. Don’t be lured by the short-term buzz of flying through personal projects while sacrificing the valuable experience and trust gained by learning to work on a team.
5. Read industry-related articles– and pass them along!
An insight is not an insight until you share it. A mentor just flat-out told me to sent him interesting articles one morning, and it’s definitely been mentally filed under top 3 pieces of professional advice I’ve ever gotten. Not enough people take the time to educate those around them, much less begin a conversation about things that matter. Instead of going for the easy small-talk pieces, engage your coworkers by discussing ideas that really matter to you both.
6. What’s your story?
It’s inevitable that people will be asking you a little bit about yourself, and so being able to tell your story is a paramount ability. I definitely still rehearse mine in the mirror from time to time 🙂 Be concise, show your character, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
7. You are your best teacher.
Sometimes I really pity those that are on the opposite end, delegating tasks to the interns. While some instruction is obviously necessitated, it’s a huge asset to be able to find the answers yourself. This means know the tools you have at your disposal, which are essentially unlimited given the internet. You are not above YouTube tutorials!
8. Read. And be proud of it.
My parents brought me up to love this nerdy thing called reading, and not a day has gone by where I haven’t thanked them for sharing that passion. Turns out that the business world is indeed inhabited by adults (for the most part), thus two of the coolest attributes one can have are a love of reading and a natural curiosity for the world around us.
9. Everything about you is a direct reflection on you.
By now you probably know the power of each little thing when it comes to first impressions, but don’t gradually backslide into laziness each day after. Excellence is a habit. And if you screw up once in awhile– which would only make you human– remember that each day is a new start.
10. Develop a vision that transcends the work week.
Internships are a lot like dating (now that I think about it, so are a lot of things.) It is not enough to only focus on the short-term, rather, allow a long-term vision to be the guiding star in your behavior and it will save you much heartache. Is this a company you’d want to work for permanently? If so, are you being cognizant of the little ways of building rapport, respect, and going the extra mile? If not, how do you want to be remembered?
After runningthe Santiago Corre this morning,I rushed home and through a delightfully icy shower just in time to attend Domingo Misa in the serene ILAC chapel. Those next tens of minutes, I toyed with the idea of retiring upstairs to my bed as the tired tenderness of my body, the gentle breeze that played with my hair, and the soothing sounds of LaPalabra de Dios nearly lulled me to sleep. But, I am ever so glad that I somehow stayed strong during the homily, because I caught a neat little parable that has had me thinking ever since. It’s called the Story of the Three Stonecutters:
A man came across three stonecutters and asked them what they were doing. The first replied, “I am making a living.” The second kept on hammering while he said, “I am doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire county.” The third looked up with a visionary gleam in his eye and said, “I am building a cathedral.”
There are three kinds of people in this world…We all know those first-stonecutter-types, indeed we ourselves default to that short-sightedness from time to time (especially on dreary mornings.) His is the short-term perspective; the inability to raise one’s eyes above the present momentary exchange of work for pay. In fact, its safe to say that such a narrow view breeds complaints, and therefore chokes out most daily cheer or any true sense of fulfillment. But, take the second stonecutter– his perspective is attractively furnished with a strong sense of individualism. He has high aspirations, abundant passion, and finds the purpose of his work in cultivating his talents to be the best. The limits of his imagination are the limits of mankind’s imagination; they are sky-high and greatness-bound. The driven individualist clearly will find happiness as he propels himself toward glory, but what of fulfillment? I think some of us already know the answer to this by years of trial and error. Again, with the third stonecutter, the audience is able to picture the very scene and perhaps draw parallels with individuals we have crossed paths with as he answers with a “visionary gleam in his eye.” We know something is exceptional here. His response reveals the mindset of one who believes that a grander mission is always unfolding, grander even than his own solid successes. Not only is he making a living for himself, not only does the stone before him become more beautiful with every chip that flies from his hammer, but he is here, this very day, to play his role in a tremendous feat. He is building a cathedral. Here thrives purpose, happiness, and fulfillment. I am fond of the interpretation of the final stonecutter given by Drew Faust, the president of Harvard University:
The third stonecutter embraces a broader vision. Interesting, I think, that the parable has him building a cathedral—not a castle or a railway station or a skyscraper. Testimony in part, of course, to the antiquity of the tale. But revealing in other ways as well. The very menial work of stonecutting becomes part of a far larger undertaking, a spiritual as well as a physical construction. This project aspires to the heavens, transcending the earthbound—and indeed transcending the timebound as well, for cathedrals are built not in months or even years, but over centuries. A lifetime of work may make only a small contribution to a structure that unites past and future, connects humans across generations and joins their efforts to purposes they see as far larger than themselves.
Through such a simple parable, we are reminded of the big picture which always overarches our daily handful of time-currency. The purpose behind our everyday tasks is threefold: to make a living, to be great, and to serve a higher good. Our God-given task is to remember all three. I was asked the question “what is your dream job?” thrice this week in various interviews. Though as of right now I am not yet able to articulate exactly what I want to do as a career, although I do have a few conditions in accord with my general talents and desires, I am sure of how I want to do it. I want to always be aware of the sublime masterpiece that we are a part of; I want to go about my everyday with the vision of the third stonecutter.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
With the gentle eyes of hindsight, these past two weeks may very well have been a dream. But as I thumb through my smutty journal and study my crude, daily recordings, I am firmly reminded that they were full of rocky ups and downs. Somewhere in between frigid bucket-showers, raw blisters, and the endless supply of hugs, I was taught something more about myself, hard-work, and friendship. But that is old news; that is to be expected with each new, uncomfortable experience. What remains now is to attempt to share, though in much less a poetic manner than that of Thoreau, an average day in our dear campo:
6:37 am: Wake up gracefully to the sun shinning through the curtain. JUST KIDDING: the roosters have been “heralding the day” since 4:00 am. I untangle my way out of my pink mosquito net, try to journal down some morning thoughts enespañol, braid my hair, and then all that’s left is to throw on my muddy hiking boots (since I was clever/lazy enough to sleep in my work clothes.)
7:30 am: Enter Olga, always with a piping hot cup of mega-sugary coffee and a cozy, back-rubbing hug. Did I mention that my campo mom is an angel?
8:00(ish) am: Gather up the crew and wade through four rivers (yep, you bet we named them all) to get to breakfast. Discuss in depth the events of the night before, i.e. who won at dominos, who got offered the most food, and who bonded with a new friend over our weird American music.
9:00 am: I finish dunking my last piece of bread in the breakfast hot chocolate and hop into the bed of the community truck– the guagua. We try not to bruise our tailbones on the way to one of the worksites: the tank, digging, or tubing. Let the games begin!
11:00 am: After a few hot hours of working on and off, the kiddos come by during their recreo. They insist on singing us a new song that they learned, and I find myself fighting back tears because children are just so beautiful. Especially these ones. Always holding our hands, they fawn “mi hermana” before scampering back to la escuela.
12:15 pm: Lunch break, gracias a Dios! We all traverse back to the meeting place, a small patio surrounded by chickens, dogs, and mud. Before we carry on, we bow our heads to sing “Bendigamos, al Señor…” Never mind that we still don’t know the tune of the third line. 😉
1:00 pm: Although uncomfortably hot in our jeans, we recline and some manage to nod off while leaning back on their plastic chairs. After washing my hands and face in the outside spigot, I daydream and watch the still, bright green montañas.
2:00 pm: And it’s back to work; some sigh and some sing. By this time, much of the community has joined in the fun and we progress quickly despite the lack of palasypicos, our tools. I have a newfound appreciation for loose, light dirt.
3:00 pm: One of the local madres brings out grape and orange soda. Although never a huge pop drinker, I don’t think I’ve had a more refreshing beverage in my life– ¡Ah, muchas gracias! By this time, almost every able-bodied adult is trying to contribute in some way to the construction of their aqueduct. Some even dig with their bare hands.
5:00 pm: And finally, the aqueduct is another day’s work closer to completion! Our sore feet drag us back home over the rivers and through the woods to wash up before dinner.
5:30 pm: I arrive at my front porch to find my family reclining in plastic chairs and chatting up a storm. They gleefully greet me and insist that I sit down to cool off and relax before I take a shower. I always open up with, “Ay Dios! Fue un día glorioso.”
6:00(ish) pm: After another rousing prayer concluding with the beautiful “Oh-h Padre Nuestro,” we dig into the abundance of plantains, salami, yuca, and salad spread before us. I have a new appreciation for ketchup and hot sauce, as they are somehow able to make all the above taste like a gourmet meal (or maybe that’s the hungry tummy talking.) We thank the cooks profusely, and some of us girls get a free cooking lesson from one of the older women. Nevertheless, I am still convinced that those wrinkled, brown hands work nothing short of a miracle when it comes to the challenge of raw food and open flame.
7:00 pm: More members of the community roll around, and we engage in cards and friendly banter while the elders avidly matchmake the eligible young men and women (but c’mon, what a great story that would be!)
8:30(ish) pm: The River Crew gets a ride back home in the guagua and we arrive to find a gaggle of our neighbors hanging at the local colmado. The party starts as the bachata music is turned up and the dominos are brought out. Quieres bailar?
10:00 pm: Although my sister was with me, I decide to scamper home at a decent hour in order to pass some time with the adults in my family. We watch baseball and do our best (necesito practicar español más) to discuss adult things. Somehow, the conversation frequently turns toward the importance of education (surely they knew the kiddos were listening awake in their beds), and I don’t mind at all since I have a lot to say on the subject.
11:30 pm: It has been a long, long day for us all, but I know that my family will patiently keep me company until I explicitly yawn and declare that I would like to sleep soon. We hug, scuffle back under our mosquito nets, and I turn off the light after recording the new Spanish words of the day. While thoughts of home drift to me in the dark, I catch the whispered Ave Marias of my abuela and am reminded to dar gracias a Dios for my day. And now it’s time to rest. Hasta mañana, mi familia de ángeles– si Dios quiere 🙂
“Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly”
As my fondness for writing has resolutely forged itself into an enthusiastic, habitual coping mechanism, so I find myself at the keyboard this hour – while visions of accounting dance through my head. First, I must admit that I have begun no less than three new posts this week, but unfortunately Time has not been so kind as to grant me her refuge. In plain, collegiate vernacular: I don’t want to sound like an idiot by posting incomplete thoughts. Hopefully you can bear with me, come to appreciate my foresight, and exercise patience – as I have no doubt that you are in full command of such a refined quality. Luckily, this post right here was somewhat of an early Christmas miracle as it was nearly written for me. I heard the seeds of it today in a most cheering sermon. Three main insights I would like to share tonight:
1. You have a great work to prepare for right here, right now, that will make the world very proud of you. As you labor toward that finis, find the present beauty and fulfillment in a hard day of work done well.
2. As you go about this work, remember you have been given another layer of responsibility: being an occasion of joy for others. See every interruption as an invitation.
3. Having said that, you’re not Jesus (thank goodness). Always be humble enough to know that you cannot do it all, and everything will still be alright.
n.b. ALWAYS say yes to funny Christmas card photo-shoots with friends. And teddy bears.