The Colgate Scene
March 2001
Table of contents

  Loving Your Job, Finding Your Passion: Work and the Spiritual Life
By Joseph G. Allegretti '74, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ, 2000. 192 pp.

by Nan De Vries

"Hands to work and hearts to God," prompted Mother Ann Lee, founder of the American Shaker community, more than 200 years ago. Joseph Allegretti '74 offers a fresh prompt to consider our own spirituality of work in his new book, Loving Your Job, Finding Your Passion: Work and the Spiritual Life. In so doing, Allegretti becomes a companion along the inner way of self-examination.

     Allegretti encourages us first to examine our attitudes about work by taking a critical look at the language we use to describe our work. No surprise, we find our own attitudes about work reveal ambivalence, as we consider our experience of and attitudes about professional ethics, success, excellence, recognition, salary, equity, hierarchy, dehumanization, retirement expectations, job relationships that are life-giving versus those that are a constant strain.

     Citing Studs Terkel's Working, Allegretti reminds us, "Happy (are those) who find a savor in their daily jobs; the Indiana stone mason, who looks upon his work and sees that it is good; the Chicago piano tuner, who seeks and finds the sound that delights; the bookbinder who saves a piece of history; the Brooklyn fire fighter, who saves a piece of a life."

     Allegretti offers these fulfilling images in contrast to those that fit the deadening punishment meted out to Adam for his transgression. "Cursed be the ground because of you, by toil shall you eat of it . . . By the sweat of your brow shall you get bread to eat . . ." (Genesis). Allegretti encourages us to utilize our faith and our inner resources to achieve a healthier, life-giving approach to our work, gently pointing out that we spend most of our lives "working." How we feel about our work, our vocation, our jobs not only inhabits our daily lives, but it shapes the nature of our human experience across decades of our lives. Being honest with ourselves about the negatives, working to change them, and embracing the positives, are paths along which the reader is ably encouraged.

     Allegretti's graceful touch of humor reminds us not to live a life and work a job that will leave us as the one buried underneath this Scottish epitaph!

Here lies John McDonald
Born a Man
Died a Grocer

     We who are part of the larger Colgate community do well to examine our own spirituality of work. President Charles Karelis encouraged incoming first-year students to do precisely this in his 1999 Founder's Day Convocation address.

     "My . . . point concerns the way you use your time. You'll hear a lot of people say the Colgate way is work hard, play hard. You'll hear this all the time. If you didn't know the Latin words on the Colgate seal had something to do with God and truth, you might think they meant work like a demon and then go to the opposite extreme and play like a demon.

     "My point about this is, don't buy into it uncritically. Think about the issue of work and play for yourself. One alternative picture you might consider is this. Work hard/play hard assumes that work and play are opposites. It says, these things are oil and water; and then it says max out on both. But is the oil and water assumption correct? Haven't we all had the experience of having work go so well it just flows? And when work flows, I think we want to use words like `joyous, imaginative, creative,' -- in fact, exactly the words we normally use to describe play. And that's the point. Work at its best is like play, and not the opposite of play; and so there is no `A' versus `B' that need to be balanced."

     Exactly so! Loving Your Job, Finding Your Passion assists us in examining and reordering our inner orientation to work, that the work of our daily lives may draw us closer to the Creator, our loved ones and our own selves. Then may we say with the psalmist, "Establish, O Lord, the work of our hands. The work of our hands, establish Thou it." (Psalm 90)

De Vries is university chaplain.

Straw Man
By Vaughn A. Carney '68, Xlibris Corporation,, 2000. 177 pp.

by Denise Taliaferro

Carney is a most entertaining and thought-provoking piece of fiction. It is the tale of two atypical Harvard chums managing as first-year law students in the tumultuous year of 1968.

     Readers are engaged from the perspective of Thomas Gilligan, a 22-year-old white working-class young man who sees Harvard Law School as his ticket out of Tacoma, Washington and away from his alcoholic father. As Thomas struggles with feeling out of place among the Harvard elite, his story becomes ever-intertwined with his roommate and best friend Phillip Anchorage, a young black man who exudes a confidence and character which most find both electrifying and exotic. Yet don't be fooled.

     This is not a cliched story of overcoming racial conflict and managing an interracial friendship. In fact, there are no riots in the streets, only riots of the heart and the rambunctious behavior of two friends, who in their everyday escapades unravel the pomp and circumstance of the Harvard Square scene.

     While there are subtexts that engage issues of race/racism, gender/sexism, sexuality and class/classism, none rule and all are implicated in the most fundamental and emergent question of this work -- what exactly is identity? This is the query Thomas is forced to ponder when he comes home one afternoon to find that his best friend has abruptly and mysteriously disappeared.

     This book is, at times, hilarious, melancholy and mucky, very mucky. At its very best, Straw Man represents a slice of life, which in the thick of it all leaves us wondering just who we really are.

Taliaferro is assistant professor of educational studies.

The Strange Case of Mr. Nobody
By Owen Magruder, Edmonston Publishing, Hamilton, NY, 2000. 212 pp.

When a headless, handless body turns up near Hadrian's Wall, John Braemhor, a retired Scottish policeman, becomes involved in the investigation. Was Peter Killmart, the overworked DCI from London, right that the case was simply "motive -- money; method -- murder during robbery?" Braemhor thinks not, and his pursuit of three Middle Eastern suspects leads him from the wall to the coast of Scotland and to a remote B&B on Cape Breton Island. The proprietors of this Nova Scotian B&B are two men, Helmut, described as "the foreboding of evil to come," and Jacques, perceived as "evil arrived." The guests are a strange collection who gather for a dinner that is more than it seems. Deceptions, false identities and double-crosses vie for Braemhor's attention and for the lives of the guests, including Braemhor and his wife, Mary. But John Braemhor's superior deductive powers and policeman's bulldog-like tenacity penetrate the international magnitude of this mystery/adventure, bringing it to a surprising conclusion.

-- From the cover

Ban the Humorous Bazooka (And Avoid the Roadblocks & Speed Bumps Along the Innovation Highway)
By Mark Henry Sebell '70 with Jeanne Yocum, Dearborn Trade, Chicago, 2001. 288 pp.

A recent survey by Robert Half Associates indicates that 89 percent of executives believe that employers are doing more to encourage employees to be creative and innovative now than five years ago.

     Notwithstanding a giant corporate commitment to innovation, roadblocks abound, creating an unacceptably high failure rate for new products. But what if someone could show businesses how to overcome the obstacles, roadblocks and speedbumps? What if there was a proven way to move from creative ideas to actual marketable innovations? What about a way around those "humorous bazooka" comments that often shoot down fresh ideas -- leaving roadkill instead of innovation?

     Sharing the proven and practical methods that have helped Fortune 500 companies power through blocks to bring breakthrough products and services to market, innovation consultant Mark Sebell offers insights for every company grappling with the "dark night of the innovator."

     Defining the obstacles that impede innovation, then proposing successful strategies to overcome them, Ban the Humorous Bazooka uses case studies from Sebell's premier client companies to examine strategies that really work to bring successful innovations to market.

     Sebell is the founder and president of Creative Realities Inc., a Boston-based consulting firm specializing in corporate innovation. With a 30-year track record helping top companies innovate, Sebell counts among his clients such firms as Compaq Computer, Campbell Soup, AT&T, PepsiCo, Citigroup, Starbucks and Dewar's Scotch.

-- From the cover

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