The essential – Poem in praise of work

By: Alfonso Guillen Zelaya*

The essential thing is not to be a poet, artist, or philosopher. What is essential is for everyone to have the dignity of work, the awareness of their work.

The pride of doing things right, the excitement of being temporarily satisfied with her work, to love it, to admire it, is the healthy reward of the strong, those with robust heart and clean spirit.

Within the sacred numbers of nature, no work well done is worth less, none is worth more. All of us represent forces capable of creating. We are all something necessary and valuable in the running of the world, from the moment we entered to fight the battle of the future.

The one who builds the tower and the one who builds the cabin, the one who sows ideas and the one who sows wheat, the one who weaves the imperial robes and the one who sews the costume of the humble worker, the one who makes the sandal of imponderable silks, the one who makes the rough outsole which in the portion protects the foot of the laborer, are elements of progress, improvement factors, fruitful and honorable expressions of work.

In justice there can be no labor aristocracies. Within the labor action we are all leveled by that regulatory force of life that distributes gifts and promotes activities. Only the evil organization of the world stagnates and causes temporary failure of human effort.

The one who sows the grain that sustains our body is as good as the one who sows the seed that nourishes our spirit. Both are planters, and the work of both has in vivito something trascendental, noble and humane: to dilate and enhance life.

Carving a statue, polishing a gem, pinching a rhythm, animating a canvas, are admirable things. Having a child and then to raise him and love him, teaching him to strip the heart and to live in tune with the harmony of the world, is also something magnificent and eternal. It has all eternity humans are able to conquer, whatever their ability.

Nobody has the right to be ashamed of her work, no one to repudiate his labor, if he has put in it diligent affection and creative enthusiasm.

No one should envy anyone, because no one can give him the gift of others. All it takes is to struggle for the world conditions to be conducive for our neighbors and for ourselves in order to make flower and bear fruit all that is in them and in us.

Envy is the worm of the rotten wood, never of the lush trees. Let everyone widen and raise their own, defending and fighting against prevailing injustice. Satisfaction and victory are in the battle.

The sad, the bad, the criminal one, is the lean of the soul, the parasite, the one unable to admire and to love, the immodest one, the fool, the one who has never done nothing and denies everything, whom stubborn and stupid closes life’s ways; but he who works, who earns his bread and feeds with effort his joy and that of his family, the noble, the good one, for that kind of man sooner or later the future will say its word of justice, it does not matter if he cuts mountains or chisel statues.

We have no right to feel dejected by what we are. To surrender is to perish, it is to let evil drag us down to contempt, misery and death. We need to live on a war footing, without fainting or cowardice. That is our duty and that is the greater glory of human beings.

Let us not curse, let us not disdain anyone. This is not the mission of our species, but let us not neither have the weakness of considering ourselves powerless.

Our humility should not be conformity, denial, or surrender, but greatness of our smallness, which has the courage to feel useful and large compared to the magnitude of the universe. That is the spiritual summit of human beings.

*Alfonso Guillén Zelaya is an Honduran author born in 1887. See original poem in Spanish: Lo Esencial