Some celebrate by hammock-swinging and others by picnicking, sale-shopping or beach bumming. But the one thing no one wants to do on Labor Day is labor.
Warmed by the last rays of summer and the frantic hope of cramming in one last weekend of fun, few people, it seems, observe the holiday as its founders did nearly a century ago.
The Knights of Labor paraded through New York in 1882 on the day's first observance. While the holiday's father is the subject of some controversy (both the Carpenters Union and Machinists Union have claimed paternity), the intent was clear -- to pay homage to the glory of labor.
Today Labor Day is less an ode to the nobility of work than a convenient calendar marker -- a demarcation between summer holidays and autumn business, between Playtime and Reality. It's the Day the Pools Close, traffic accident records are set, white shoes go "out" and black shoes come "in."
While we're not suggesting that your Labor Day observance include eight hours of mandatory wood choping or other such toil, we'd like to propose it as a day to think about the question -- "why work?"
For inspiration -- from your hammock or sailboat, sand castle or barbecue -- we offer the thoughts of some famous workers, living and dead, on the nature of work.
"You ask . . . why I go on working. I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs." -- H. L. Menken
"I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours." -- J. K. Jerome
"Work, ah! work. I owe my life to work. You see what a poor, frail creature I am.
I remember how my mother used to wrap me up in flannel when there was a high wind; and yet she set me to work as something that might give me better health. She did not crush life out of me by study, nor send me to schools which are positive galleys for intelligence in its earliest stages. She infused into me the habit of regular work, work that was never monotonous, work that I loved. That was how I learned to work, just as I learned to breathe or walk. Work became necessary to my very being." -- Emile Zola
"Hard work nourishes the soul and disciplines the spirit." -- Rep. John Anderson
"Blessed is he who has found his work, and therein have wellbeing." -- Thomas Carlyle
"To rejoice in his labour, this is the gift of God." -- Old Testament
"As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey." -- Thomas A. Edison
"Let us be grateful to Adam our benefactor. He cut us out of the 'blessing' of idleness and won for us the 'curse' of labor." -- Mark Twain
"Labour and love! There are no other laws." -- edmund Gosse
"As long as you have something to get up and do, you'll stay alive." -- George Burns
"Man's work is to labour and leaven,
As best he may, earth here with heaven,
'Tis work for work's sake that he's needing." -- Robert Browning
"In my business, if you don't work you don't last long." -- Muhammed Ali
"Work as if you were to live 100 years,
Pray as if you were to die tomorrow." -- Benjamin Franklin
"People who work sitting down get paid more than people who work standing up." -- Ogden Nash
"I've always been very grateful for that work (as a youth in Mississippi orphanage). Even though at times it was very difficult, it taught me two things that I've often thought were extremely important.
"The first was discipline. If you had a job to do you did it because other people were depending on you. The second was to teach me who I was and what I could do. This gave me a certain sense of self-fulfillment and the ability to be myself, to learn self-sufficiency." -- Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall
"If any would not work, neither should he eat." -- New Testament
"Work is love made visible." -- Kahlil Gibran
"Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul is the work of the soul, and good for either is the work of the other." -- Henry David Thoreau
My father taught me to work; he did not teach me to love it." --Abraham Lincoln
"To youth I have but three words of counsel -- work, work, work." -- Otto Von Bismarck
"Work gives meaning and rhythm to life. Leisure-time activities, balanced with work demands, are important for a full, happy live." -- National Park Service director, Russell E. Dickenson
"The working people of our country . . . always have been at the forefront when there was a dynamic struggle to make our nation greater in time of peace, especially in time of war." --Jimmy Carter
"And no one shall work for money,
And no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of the working,
And each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the thing as he sees it,
For the God of Things as They are." -- Rudyard Kipling
"The fruit of labor is the sweetest of pleasures." -- Vauvenargues
"I'd rather work than do anything else. I love what I do and think I'm very lucky to have a job where I love to get up in the morning and go to work." -- Coalition of Labor Union Women president Joyce D. Miller
"Work disgraces no man; unfortunately you can occasionally find men disgrace labor." -- Ulysses S. Grant
"I find work exhilarating . . . without (work) self worth suffers not to mention one's own personal finances and the satisfaction of realizing a job well done. Work is one of the good things about life. Just ask the person who is out of work." -- Ronald Reagan
"It is better to wear out than to rust out." -- Bishop Richard Cumberland $"Hard work don't hurt anybody." -- Owen Davis