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An Excerpt from A Life at Work: The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born to Do by Thomas Moore

Bestselling author Thomas Moore examines the special ingredients that go into a life's work. Here is an excerpt on mystery.

"A key element in the spiritual life is an appreciation for mystery. We live in a society that sees a mystery as a challenge, and you are successful only if you dispel the mystery and replace it with an explanation.

"Religion takes a different approach to the mysterious. Rather than try to explain it away, it creates ritual and song and story around the mystery, holding it and revering it. Religion assumes that a mystery is valuable in itself. It is not a code waiting to be broken. It is a powerful, unfathomable truth that is to be honored and lived.

"The mystery of love, the mystery of the universe, the mystery of marriage and children, the mysterious life of animals, the mysteries of birth and death — all of these give human life its infinite depth. Without them we end up with mere explanation, which may be satisfying at one level but is not humanizing."

"A life work is one of those inexplicable mysteries that resists reasonable explanation. If we were to take the lead from religions, we would honor the mysteriousness of a calling. We would find it precious without any need to take it apart and figure it out. We wouldn't have to control it or demand anything of it.

"A life work is nothing less than the mystery of who we are. It can't be equated with a job or a career. It isn't just an emotion, nor is it an illusion. It is of the greatest importance for feeling complete and tranquil. Yet it is impossible to define and control. It is profoundly spiritual and can only be approached with the sense that we are connected somehow to the world in which we live and to people who have passed on and have sought and perhaps discovered their life work.

"Every day I walk past a cemetery in our small town and think about the lives of the people at rest there. The truth is, I talk to them as I go by. I see them as a little community. I think about their individual lives and the work they did. Somehow I think that cemetery holds the secret to what I am looking for: my life work, some meaning to my life, a purpose and an inspiration. I know that I am headed there shortly, and I hope that the simple things I have done with my life, which has been so full of mistakes and wrong turns, will add up to a real opus, a meaningful work, a life fully lived."

 


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A Life at Work
S&P Book Awards:
One of the
Best Spiritual Books
of 2008

See the whole list
Related Content

• Read our interview with Thomas Moore about A Life at Work.
• Sign up for our 40-part e-course Practicing Spirituality with Thomas Moore

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