Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul,
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
— ‘Among School Children’, W. B. Yeats (1933)
Aristotle said the purpose of a pen is to write, the purpose of a human is “eudaimonia”. Translation: “blossoming”.
Line by line, I take the sentiment of this stanza, which is the last in the poem, to be:
1) and 2) Perform your work in this world with body and soul as one. (“Mind” does just as well as “soul” for those who prefer.)
3) Beauty is your nature, it doesn’t require any alteration.
4) Rest in your inherent wisdom, no need to stay up all night studying.
5) and 6) Just as no single part of the tree is the tree, so the self cannot be found in any single part of our experience, nor indeed in any convenient package of those parts. Thich Nhat Hanh has also used trees to teach this truth.
7) and 8) Yeats uses the perfect image to show just how inseperable person and action really are. When you do your work, be your work. This is mindfulness to me.