For thirty plus years I worked in the technology industry, wrenching shareholder value from the market as a farmer coaxes crops from an unyielding soil. At times that occupation was overwhelming. I forced the flow of all my attention into the narrowest of channels in order to power the insistent waterwheel, unwilling that even a rivulet of mental vitality should escape the banks and nourish the parched fields of undisciplined thought.
At other times, however, I saw more clearly.
Then, I could spot the ironies that build their nests in all organizations, great and small. I noticed connections between a book, or poem, or cultural event and the job I did each day. The compartments separating my life at work and the work of life disappeared for an instant and I became part of something more enduring than the next project or month-end report.
Those moments led to this blog.
The Stubborn Glebe will celebrate work but perhaps not as other blogs do. This space is devoted to marrying our vocational lives to our cultural setting, using those cultural associations to compare and contrast our own professional narratives. Assorted perspectives make us better people, more self-aware and de-commoditized. I also believe they makes us better workers, whether we be professionals, craftsmen, home managers, entrepreneurs, or whatever.
But, what is a “stubborn glebe” anyway? The term most notably appears in Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”, a sensation when first published in 1751 and still a profound read today. I chose “stubborn glebe” because I am fond of the idea of a work-culture blog being titled by one of the English language’s most widely read poems. It is also fitting. In the professional world language routinely communicates information efficiently but The Stubborn Glebe will admire communicating understanding evocatively.
A “glebe” is an archaic term for a parcel of arable land. Cultivable land represents potential from which work extracts abundance but only stubbornly, through such demanding effort that we are often left too weary for cultural engagement. The glebe is meant to be a suggestive image for those of us who toil whether in home, office, field or factory. It is our patch, our place.
But “glebe” also has a communal suggestion. In medieval times the glebe often specifically described a tract of soil assigned to the parish church and worked by the peasants in rotation to provide income for the local clergy. Workers toiling in the medieval glebe did so in community. In the glebe they labored toward a purpose beyond simply their own physical well-being. It was a corporal toil from which they could impute spiritual meaning.
So each fortnight, and sometimes in-between, The Stubborn Glebe will offer up contributions for a small community of readers who see in their own work the potential for the noble, at least the poetic…or perhaps even the spiritual. Here’s hoping that together we discover those stories that take us from shabby business clichés toward those unnoticed potential metaphors all around us and in doing so, have a little fun as well.
And for those of us enslaved to task-orientation, I will even include a tiny application at the end of each piece.
Welcome to The Stubborn Glebe.
This week take time to read “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”. Slowly. Memorize your favorite line or couplet and say it out loud to yourself during the week. Find it here.