The conversation on this week’s episode about the purpose of business being to help life flourish stuck me as so much wishful thinking.  The concept of the triple or quadruple bottom line that adds social concerns in addition to shareholder profit seems to have been a recent (and welcome) development, but Pamela Wilhelms built an historical case.  She points out that trading began as a way of acknowledging that some people did some things better than others and so each party benefits from the exchange.  Thus the starting place of business is an effort to help others flourish. For a long time principles such as loyalty and accountability were a check on rampant greed, but sadly those days are gone. Today family owned businesses committed to the communities they served have largely been replaced by soulless corporations that are granted the rights of persons without any of the expectations of flesh and blood people.  The one responsibility legally imposed on these “paper people” is fiduciary responsibility, that is the requirement that they first and foremost are committed to the effort to turn a profit in order to pay dividends to their investors.  And thus the single bottom line of profit was born.  Is it any wonder that those employed in this hamster wheel effort are so often exhausted?  Harkening back to the prior week’s conversation with Todd Wynward, we see the problem of not knowing enoughness.

The poet David Whyte provides an answer to exhaustion in his book Crossing the Unknown Sea.  He tells of his own exhaustion in working too hard for that which wasn’t his proper calling. When he asks his wise Franciscan friend Brother David to tell him about exhaustion, Brother David tells him that the solution to exhaustion is not necessarily rest but rather wholeheartedness.   Brother David explains, “You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don’t have to tell you.”  They had been sharing the reading of a Rilke poem about the awkwardness of a swan walking on land that disappears the moment the bird reaches the water where it achieves a gracefulness by yielding itself to the buoyancy of the water.

When busy-ness demands that we become paper dolls with a hole where our heart should be we are at the greatest need for sabbath.  And as Jesus demonstrated, sabbath is not about doing nothing when something needs doing.  When people are hungry feeding them is a sabbath act.  We find our greatest fulfillment, and thus truly refreshing rest, when we are wholehearted not hole hearted.


Rev. Ian Lynch is pastor of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Brimfield, MA He blogs about the intersection of spirituality and society at and the intersection of spirituality and ornithology at


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