All that we have , while we live is life;
and if you don’t live during your life, you are a piece of
And work is life, and life is lived in work
unless you’re a wage slave.
While a wage-slave works, he leaves life aside
and stands there a piece of dung.
Men should refuse to be lifelessly at work.
Men should refuse to be heaps of wage-earning dung.
Men should refuse to work at all. As wage-slaves.
Men should demand to work for themselves, of themselves,
and put their life in it.
For if a man has no life in his work, he is mostly a heap
Writing in 1929, D. H. Lawrence speaks blatantly to the notion that we must embody ourselves through our life, including our life at work. Lawrence issues a strident call of caution – be awake or be dung! He also makes a political statement in this poem about the working conditions of wage-slaves. This sentiment is echoed in the work of the poet David Whyte, who reminds us that most of our waking day is spent in the service of work, so it behooves us to be fully present to that experience and to make sure our soul is included. Even with work that is mechanical or repetitive, such as factory assembly work, we have the opportunity to embody our experience. In today’s world of union negotiated workplaces, wage-slaves are a thing of the past, except perhaps for the conditions of unfortunate workers in sweat shops.