THREE ISSUES, PART I. . .

In his 1962 essay, Greenleaf noted ‘three issues’ that emerged rather sharply out of my own experience.  Beginning this morning, gentle reader, I will share with you, in his own words, Greenleaf’s ‘Three Issues.’

Greenleaf writes: I see three major issues that need to be faced and dealt with…  These are especially relevant to work, to vocation.  Absorbing as work can and should be it is important that one find in his work that which is uniquely oneself. 

 No other achievement, no other end sought will be worth the effort if through the work that occupies one’s best days and years one does not find a way to fan his own creative spark to a white heat… So I want to consider three issues…three that have emerged rather sharply out of my own experience.

 First, the consequences of stress and responsibility.  All work…both develops and limits.  It stretches out in some ways and narrows in others; it both fans the flame and seeks to quench it.

 ….Whenever I think I have really achieved something, up come those powerful lines from Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of the Open Road’…

 Now understand me well-
It is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition
of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to
make a greater struggle necessary.

 The greater struggle that will be necessary comes because long exposure to stress and responsibility tends to narrow the intellect unless a valiant effort is made to achieve an ever-expanding outlook. 

 ….The intellectual life must expand consistently.  The great risk which the bearers of responsibility assume is that intellectual curiosity and the capacity for a ‘feeling’ response will atrophy and that only a calculating rationality will remain.

 …If one has a problem on which it is appropriate to act, and if one doesn’t know what to do…one should turn to the search for greater depth of understanding about the problem.  The main reason one will ever feel the pressure of a problem, any kind of problem, is that one’s understanding of himself, of the other people involved or of the area in which the problem is less limited. 

 Therefore, the search for understanding is most practical, even though the ‘practical’ people often spurn it.  …it is difficult to understand when the heat is on. 

 One should learn to seek to understand when the head is not on; make a firm habit of it, and try to be aware that this will only serve one well if the habit is firmly enough fixed so that one can manage it when the going is rough, when the stakes are real and when the consequences of failing to understand may be overwhelming.

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