My father used to tell me that studying was an act of worship. I loved my books and arts and revered the power of the sign, rapt with the music and the humanity of the word, and did not understand him and forgot the sacredness in the worship. Recently, I came across Tariq Ramadan’s “Essay: On Reading the Koran” in the International Herald Tribune, and while I made notes on deep reading for my class of freshmen I understood how reading, how all work, could be worship. We come closest to the human vision of the divine when we read for the broadest vision of humanity.
While I pray that I do not forget too often to read thus–to read with the heart, with pleasure and pain, with the infusion of the self, using the tinder-box and the tin drum, the paint and fabric of the limits of our hope and intelligence. To read as poetry, with reverence, and desire, to sing of the human, of human utopias without forsaking the anguish of ruined crops. To sing with mud, with feet and work, in a perfection of embraces. To live therein, and thence to love–
While I pray thus, in and to the tradition of shruti and smriti, the spoken and the remembered– I hold the candle of work-as-prayer to the field of work-as-labour. Production far apart from production as the shivering miraculous. Oh, Benjamin, the art of work in this age!