A contemporary writer I have always admired is David McCullough. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his biographies of Truman and John Adams, McCullough stands head and shoulders above his peers for his grasp of detail and literary insight. I was pleasantly surprised to see in the latest Harvard Business Review a short interview with this biographical literary giant of our time. At the age of 79, McCullough is still busy at work, working on his next book. He is not a fan of how many today see the American Dream through a self-indulgent lens of “retirement.”
McCullough has been a life-long student of the intellectual as well as virtuous architecture of the American Experiment and he sees work as integral to the founders visionary design. When asked about his own possible “retirement,” McCullough speaks with refreshing insight. “When the founders wrote about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they didn’t mean longer vacations and more comfortable hammocks. They meant the pursuit of learning. The pursuit of improvement and excellence. In hard work is happiness.”
McCullough’s wise words echo the inspired words of the writer of Ecclesiastes who comes to a similar conclusion ages ago. “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover when God gives any man wealth and possessions and enables to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.” Yes our work is at times vexing in a broken world, but it is nevertheless a gift of God, a key to human happiness and human flourishing.
As image bearers of the one true God we were designed to work, to contribute to God’s good world all of our lives. With all the looming economic issues confronting us and the political theatre being played out in Washington, maybe a look back at what our founders had in mind when they penned “the pursuit of happiness,” would be both instructive and helpful.
As 2013 begins may we be more resolute to do our work well for the glory of God and the common good. Have a happy hard-working new year!