With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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IN MY WANDERINGS through small villages around the world, I have often sat and marveled at how people in other cultures perform their daily work. There is an acceptance of the tasks at hand and a pride in exerting excellence. At the end of a day their harvest is contentment and sweet sleep.
The word energy comes from the Greek energes, which means “in one’s work.” When people are truly “in their work,” they have energy. When workers fail to bring heart to the workplace, they have no energy. The industrialized nations have succumbed to greed, and the harvest of our offices is a withered crop of stress, disease, and disillusionment. Rural or indigenous people, on the other hand, are still connected to the earth. Their energy can be seen and felt in the food they grow, in the songs they sing, in the dances they dance, and especially in the labors they perform.
Perhaps the Incas had it right: they did not differentiate between work and leisure.
— Ethan Hubbard
URUBAMBA RIVER VALLEY, PERU© Ethan Hubbard
URUBAMBA RIVER VALLEY, PERU
OUTER HEBRIDES, SCOTLAND© Ethan Hubbard
OUTER HEBRIDES, SCOTLAND
COMMONWEALTH OF DOMINICA© Ethan Hubbard
COMMONWEALTH OF DOMINICA
MAINE, U.S.A.© Ethan Hubbard
MARQUESAS ISLANDS, FRENCH POLYNESIA© Ethan Hubbard
MARQUESAS ISLANDS, FRENCH POLYNESIA
LADAKH, INDIA© Ethan Hubbard
ARIZONA, U.S.A.© Ethan Hubbard
NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND© Ethan Hubbard
NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
FARAFRA OASIS, EGYPT© Ethan Hubbard
FARAFRA OASIS, EGYPT
Ethan Hubbard’s photo essay “The Task at Hand” [December 2003] is a wonderful look at rural people of disparate cultures performing their daily work. I disagree, however, with his statement that “the industrialized nations have succumbed to greed, and the harvest of our offices is a withered crop of stress, disease, and disillusionment.” Has Hubbard never experienced the rigors and rewards of the Western workplace? I do not think it necessary to judge the modern workplace in order to appreciate traditional work ethics.
I enjoyed Ethan Hubbard’s photographs, but I don’t agree with some of his conclusions. I have spent time in numerous villages on this planet. Yes, many indigenous people have a connectedness to the earth, but I am not sure how much contentment they feel. The grueling, backbreaking labor they have to perform to scratch out a meager existence frequently shortens their lives. Resignation is common due to the lack of alternatives available to them.
I’ve always liked physical work, loved being outside, and cherished the simple life. I feel alone in modern U.S. culture, where none of these things are valued. Seeing Ethan Hubbard’s photos of happy people doing their work in beautiful places truly brings me joy. At least some people in the world — even some people in the United States! — are still sane.