Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

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 Volume 2.14 This View’s Prose December 9, 2002 

    The End of the Work    

That the artist’s attitude to work is quite alien to that of the common-or-business man is a fact generally recognized and (the world being what it is) universally exploited. For example: in times of national crisis and economic stringency the writer is often requested by his publisher to accept a reduced royalty on his forthcoming book (particularly if his “message” is held to be of value to the nation), on the ground of “the increased cost of printing.” The assumption is that, such is his eagerness to see his work published, he will readily cut his remuneration to the starvation line rather than deprive the world of the fruit of his toil.

But it is never suggested to the printer that he should have his wages reduced on account of the educational value of the book he is printing. On the contrary, his wage is increased at the writer’s expense, though the increased cost of living affects them both alike. Everybody takes this for granted. It would be irrational to suppose that this is because the printer’s work is more valuable to the community than the writer’s, since if all the writers stopped writing, the printers would have nothing to print, and their skill would automatically become valueless. The true reason is that the writer is known to live by a set of values which are not purely economic: he beholds the end of the work. As a common-or-business man, he requires payment for his work and is often pretty stiff in his demands; but as an artist, he retains so much of the image of God that he is in love with his creation for its own sake.

So too, the artist has two meanings for the concept of property. When he says, “This is my top-hat, my bathroom, my motor-car,” he means merely that he possesses these things; but when he says, “this is my work,” he means that, no matter who now possesses it, he made it. The Communist makes it a great point that the worker should own the tools of his trade; but few people in a machine age think much whether it matters that a man should feel the accomplished work to be his own. Yet this is what underlies the delight of a man in his work.

True, it is not for every man not even for every artist to say of a work: “This is all mine, from the first conception in the brain to the last detail made with hands.” The novelist may say it if he disregards the work of printer and binder; the maker of a gem-ring may say it if he disregards the work of the miner; but the playwright may not say it, nor the actor, still less the stonemason who carves the capitals for a great cathedral; yet all of them in some degree may say it if they look to the end of the work. “The ring is mine, though I may not wear it,” “the Cathedral is ours, though we no more possess it than the humblest of all who worship in it.”

But what of the factory hand, endlessly pushing a pin into a slot? How clearly does he feel of the far-off end-product of his task, “this thing is mine”? And if he does feel proprietorship in it, how often does the contemplation afford food for the soul?


Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957)


The Mind of the Maker (1941)
Postscript “The Worth of the Work” pp. 220ff


    The Defense of Liberty    
    What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts, the guns of our war steamers, or the strength of our gallant and disciplined army. These are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage, and you are preparing your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of those around you, you have lost the genius of your own independence, and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises.
    Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
    from Speech at Edwardsville, Illinois, September 11, 1858
Collected Works
Volume III p. 95

 Volume 2.14 This View’s Prose December 9, 2002 

The View from the Core, and all original material, © 2002 E. L. Core. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”