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Idle Hands: Some Puritan Advice for the Unemployed
Wall Street Journal ^ | 11/19/2009 | Amy Henry

Posted on 11/21/2009 8:34:03 PM PST by SeekAndFind

Steve Lee, of Denver, Colo., is familiar with the despondency that unemployment brings. Laid off a year ago from a medical-sales position, he admits that depression hit just a few months into his unemployment. "All I could think about was how bad the economy was and how unlikely getting a new job as good as my old one would be," he said. With tips like "start exercising" and "try to stay hopeful," cyber-counsel for the 15 million currently out of work rings hollow at best, leaving those thigh-deep in unemployment wondering where to turn for practical advice.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, encouragement may come from an unexpected source: the Puritans.

Often misunderstood and perennially maligned, the Puritans—tested first by religious persecution and later by the elements in their primitive surroundings—grew not into the fuddy-duddy party-poopers of modern history books, but into a tenacious and stalwart people. They developed by sheer necessity one of the most highly defined and well-honed work ethics in history. If anyone knew a trick or two about surviving hard times, they did.

Defined primarily by their religious separation from the Church of England, the Puritans (not surprisingly) had a view of work in which God looms large. Living according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which states that "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever," the Puritans believed that all of life, including their work, was God's, and, as such, infused with purpose and meaning. They saw hardship not as a sign of failure, but as a path to growth and maturity, a mind-set that kept them from the kind of work-related despair seen in today's news.

Reformer and forefather of much Puritan theology, Martin Luther, in his doctrine of vocation, taught that God gave each individual an occupational "calling."

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: puritans; unemployed; work

Long before the days of therapists and career coaches, the Puritans learned how to cope with depression. They scorned idleness, believing it was indeed the devil's workshop, bogging down the body in inertia, and leading to brooding. Luther had promoted the opposite, a life of diligence, saying "God . . . does not want me to sit at home, to loaf, to commit matters to God, and to wait till a fried chicken flies into my mouth." Long before endorphins were discovered, the Puritans knew that moving and tiring the body in manual labor (even if that labor is the unpaid kind that paints the house and organizes the garage) proved a talisman against a host of mental ills.

Contrary to the misconstrued Victorian concept of 'Puritanism,' an idea C.S. Lewis calls "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy," the original Puritans, serious as they were, embraced not only hard work, but the pursuit of joy. Lewis, opposed to this inaccurate view of the Puritans, would agree with writer, Richard Bernard, who said Christians "may be merry at their work, and merry at their meat." Thomas Gataker wrote that Satan was the one who would try to convince people that "in the kingdom of God there is nothing but sighing and groaning and fasting and prayer," but the truth was that "in his house there is . . . feasting and rejoicing." Lewis, further debunking the myth that Puritans never had fun, said "bishops, not beer, were their special aversion." The Puritans pursued joy, the very antithesis of depression, even in the midst of hardship, believing they were firmly in God's hand, not forgotten and never forsaken.

1 posted on 11/21/2009 8:34:06 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Apparently Amy Henry has a job.

2 posted on 11/21/2009 8:40:02 PM PST by goseminoles
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To: goseminoles

Here’s a huge difference -— The Puritans did not have government taking over 30% of what they make.

3 posted on 11/21/2009 8:41:09 PM PST by SeekAndFind (wH)
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To: SeekAndFind

While reading “Albion’s Seed” by David Fischer, I learned just what a bad rap the Puritans had gotten, though I suspected as much.

4 posted on 11/21/2009 8:42:56 PM PST by mrsmel
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To: SeekAndFind; goseminoles

Oh for Pete’s sake....go read the whole article you two.

Chins UP! :)

Thanks,’s a GREAT message and thread!

5 posted on 11/21/2009 8:46:53 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (BG x 2 (and a heartbeat was heard today....))
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To: SeekAndFind

Being in the wilderness would make it a little easier to find constructive things to do than living in an apartment in big city USA where you can’t chop wood or grow a vegetable or hunt a deer or build something or cut wood or even trench around your little shack to make it more water proof or make a million things that were made by hand in the day. Right now people aren’t looking for labor, they just want you to quit hanging around and to stay out their way unless you are going to purchase something.

6 posted on 11/21/2009 8:48:25 PM PST by ansel12 (Scozzafava/Romney 2012)
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To: Brad's Gramma

It is a good article. Rather than wallowing in self pity and depending in the government, the unemployed need to stay active in the community and get up every morning LOOKING for work like they are G0ING to work. I know its depressing. However, life can be much worse.

7 posted on 11/21/2009 8:53:56 PM PST by goseminoles
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To: goseminoles

Ooops. My apologies....I took your response the wrong way.

Slithering off under the table I go to hide in shame.


8 posted on 11/21/2009 8:55:54 PM PST by Bradís Gramma (BG x 2 (and a heartbeat was heard today....))
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To: SeekAndFind
I have a friend who was laid off from an engineering job, early last Summer. Instead of looking only for equivalent work, he looked for anything, and quickly got a job as a warehouse worker.

This is in an area with one of the higher unemployment rates in the nation. I recently heard that he had just been hired into an engineering position, by one of our competitors. He never collected unemployment. Attitude makes all the difference.

9 posted on 11/21/2009 9:50:05 PM PST by 3niner (When Obama succeeds, America fails.)
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To: SeekAndFind

I’m not sure I’ll buy into any of this yet...

Since late February of this year, I am sure there have been many opportunities for me to be employed doing things I probably would have done 15-20 years ago...

But that was then, and this is now...

Since then the one good thing is my wife finished her teaching degree and gained her certification to teach this year...I found myself not as idle as some would think that would make me a sloth...I got her classroom organized and setup, along with helping some of the other teachers in the late summer get their rooms up to scratch...I volunteer to do things to get setup for the science fairs at the school, district and state levels...

I have done some work on the side that keeps me out of trouble (i.e.: robbing banks /sarc), and I am an election judge in my voting precinct...

So if I am to be damned, for all eternity, for not taking jobs that involve, “Would you like to super-size that order sir?”...

Well then I am just not so sure (no, check that, I know I do not) I measure up to some folks, and the Puritan way of looking at things...

I am not sure if I am depressed, I know I have problems sleeping (considering I’m up at 2:30am on a Sunday morning) and there is not a lot moving and shaking on the job front for me...But its like that for a lot of people I network with...

I guess it is easier for folks who can write about how a religious sect got through times like these...Yet I do have a feeling that work these days for a lot of people does not glorify God in the least...

I know what I do has not done much to raise an eyebrow...And that is (I feel) more hurtful to me than to anyone else...I don’t want anyone else to suffer for my failures...

10 posted on 11/22/2009 12:30:17 AM PST by stevie_d_64
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To: SeekAndFind

About 40 years ago in college I read Max Weber’s book on the Protestant Ethic. It focused my life and has helped me ever since.

11 posted on 11/22/2009 4:45:11 AM PST by Senator_Blutarski (No good deed goes unpunished.)
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To: stevie_d_64
I know what I do has not done much to raise an eyebrow...And that is (I feel) more hurtful to me than to anyone else...I don’t want anyone else to suffer for my failures...

Why should you consider yourself a failure ? You are not a bum who wants to remain unemployed. You are a real ( emphasis) victim of circumstances beyond your control, just like 15 to 20 million others in this country. It's not like you're not trying your darned best to find a job.

What you're doing is honorable and count as not being idle. You and people like you are doing their darned best to cope under the present circumstances and I am sure that neither man nor angels can blame you for things that have happened beyond your control.

Keep on doing what you're doing and by God's grace, things will be better tomorrow ( it always does ). Happy thanksgiving.
12 posted on 11/22/2009 6:56:47 AM PST by SeekAndFind (wH)
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To: SeekAndFind

We’ll see...It has, and always will be out of my hands...

If God has a sense of humor, we’ll all have a good laugh...

But there are times when I cry “Uncle”...And wish this was all just a terrible dream...

If there is something I need to learn, I am so open, that the book has lost its binding...And the pages are flying away...

13 posted on 11/22/2009 8:04:59 AM PST by stevie_d_64
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To: SeekAndFind

And contrary to the popular and progressive view, they liked sex, provided those involved were married, or getting married.

14 posted on 11/22/2009 8:06:36 AM PST by Pete from Shawnee Mission
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To: SeekAndFind

I’ve been unemployed several times. Never depressed me. Did all I could to find comparable work, and enjoyed the rest of the time as state-paid vacation. It really is a matter of chosen attitude.

Stay out of debt - all debt - and lack of work won’t be a problem.

15 posted on 11/22/2009 8:17:18 AM PST by ctdonath2 (End the coup!)
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To: ansel12

Things to do in a small apartment:

Crotchet, knit, sew...anything. Clean the closets. Litter partrol the hallways, offer to walk the neighbor’s dog, keep an eye on the neighbor’s cat or kids for that matter.

Not enough...litter patrol the street, parking lot...

The point is we’re way to lazy as a group to even begin to endeavor in a new pursuit.

16 posted on 11/22/2009 8:22:39 AM PST by EBH (it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government)
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To: Pete from Shawnee Mission
And contrary to the popular and progressive view, they liked sex, provided those involved were married, or getting married.

Precisely. The Puritans were not prudes. They have a very wholesome, balanced view of sex as a gift from God, which can be used for good or ill.

We really ought to teach their views accurately in our history classes instead of the stereotypes people tend to peddle today.
17 posted on 11/22/2009 8:44:13 AM PST by SeekAndFind (wH)
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To: ansel12

In the late 60’s, early 70’s, I was a young married mother. We lived in a rental in a mixed-race working class neighborhood.

I borrowed a sewing machine, got a book from the library and began by remodeling our old clothing. Then, the Beatles craze hit and everyone wanted Carnaby Street fashion, which was impossible to find in the US at that time.

First, I sewed for others to barter for things I wanted, like a hair cut. Then word got out (I charged cheap prices) and people began paying me. They would bring in the fabric and I would revise standard patterns to make trendy clothing. It was the beginning of the Art Fair movement and that is how I marketed my work.

Today, even though I live in the country and can do all those things you listed, I live in the North and have had to learn how to container garden and grow hydroponically through the winter. I provide most of our tomatoes and lettuce from this hobby.

People today want to stay warm for less energy. Microwavable flax or rice packs, vests, wraps, booties are all popular, take few sewing skills and help folks stay warm for less energy. Sewing machines are available cheap in many second-hand/antique stores. Repair manuals are available for $10 or so online. Vintage parts, ditto. My husband just repaired a motor pulley for an old Bernina with epoxy to save the $25 it would have cost to purchase a new one.

Several years ago, my husband purchased an industrial sewing machine. He wanted to make sails for the boat he is building. He has repaired other folk’s sails, a catamaran trampoline, made sails, sail covers and dodgers. He also has a following for his laminated tillers, a woodworking project that could be done in a kitchen or spare bedroom. He has paid for the machine, so far, and made some money, too.

Your head and hands are the means of production. People do not stop having needs just because the country collapses.

Again, back in the day, young people banded together, set up real estate land trusts, pooled resources to buy a small, run down farm in the boonies, figured out how to make cash, pay the bills and manage semi-communal living arrangements. We were known as the Back To The Land Movement. Not everyone remained a hippie.

A young friend, after a disastrous breakup, with a child to support, began making a trendy fashion accessory in her living room. She sublet what had been her business office, cashed a small life insurance policy and maxed out her cards to finance this business. She lives in New Jersey in a rental. She sold on the street and made cold calls to boutiques. She grew it into a a business grossing $150k/year, all by herself, at the age of 35. Then, realizing she had good marketing skills, she set up another business doing event planning for companies that had fired their in-house planners. She is doing very well.

A real estate agent with 6 kids went together with family members to set up a credit card processing business. They target local small proprietors who had lost their bank credit card processing in the crash, as the banks cut back on risk. The kids do whatever they can, mostly manual labor, housecleaning and a yard care business to afford their private Christian school tuition.

Outlet stores sell 1 pound skeins of acrylic yarn for $1 each. Knitters and crocheters can work anywhere. There are online video tutorials. My own mother made money during the war years by knitting baby items and placing them on consignment in shops.

It can be done and is being done and has always been done everywhere if the need is large enough.

18 posted on 11/22/2009 9:12:01 AM PST by reformedliberal
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