Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Strenuous Life

T. Roosevelt
"I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph."

In his speech to the Gridiron Club in 1899, Theodore Roosevelt gave voice to a sentiment, then growing in popularity, that we must live our lives with purpose and effort. Instead of the "American dream" of today's digital age - blissful relaxation without labor of mind or body - it was the striving, the doing that gave satisfaction and fulfillment to our lives. How many Americans today, given the choice between labor and leisure, would choose the former? Is it any wonder then that our society continually seeks new methods of gratification and entertainment? In attempting to forego any toil and trouble we miss the very things that would give us joy.

What does this mean? Certainly not that 80 hour work-weeks are the key to our happiness, though for some this may be just fine. For most of us, work alone doesn't provide what T.R. "preached". What we need is a healthy balance of professional and personal efforts, continually striving towards that happy exhaustion which only results from giving your all. I suggest that until we, as individuals and as a society, relearn to enjoy the fruits of honest, strenuous labors, we will continue to struggle to find fulfillment.

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