I have a ravishingly beautiful tune for you today: “All My Heart This Night Rejoices”.

I worked with JJ yesterday. She was expecting to have worked 86 hours this week by the time she left. I sent her home early, but even so. That is ridiculous. There is hardworking, there is gallant endeavor, and then there is just plain ridiculous. No one ought to work 86 hours a week.

I worked 44 hours for the store this week, and 7 for my business, and I have a show today so I will finish up at 10 or so there. I am therefore working only a little more than I am supposed to. I tell you this because I am bad about excessive working, so you may be thinking that I have no room to talk. However, I have been keeping track, in an effort to combat my tendency to work too much. I fully intend to get strict about that 40 hours for the store, and I plan to take the holidays off from the business. I can see that I am not getting the opportunities to loll around that I want, and I am not having the time to look after my home and family that I need, and I am making sincere efforts to fix that.

The thing is, if your work is truly what you love, and you have a butler and a housekeeper and a wife to take care of all the other responsibilities in your life, then you can work insane amounts if you want to. Why not? This could describe scientists and artists  and politicians, who might have their jobs as vocation, avocation, and recreation, and want nothing more from life.

But JJ is a teacher, and I know what her district pays. I also know what we pay her. She may be working for minimum wage at her third job, for all I know. Even so, it is not possible that she absolutely has to work that many hours in order to keep body and soul together. And, while she may love her teaching job so much that she freely chooses to work lots of hours there, her other two jobs aren’t the kind of thing a person devotes herself to in that way.

Obviously, I don’t think that JJ will read this, or that anyone who does will recognize her and tell her what I said. If she did read this, she would be well within her rights to say it is none of my business. And it isn’t.

But I really understand how it happens. It is so easy to think that something has to be done and if you won’t do it no one will. Or to have trouble saying no if someone asks you. Or to be seduced by material rewards. Or to think that you will just finish this one more thing…

And then, once you start working too much, your costs rise. Even without the butler and housekeeper. #1 daughter is working 45 hours or so each week, and she finds that her food costs are eating up any extra she makes, since she doesn’t have time to come home and eat. She also needs more clothes, and part of that is probably a feeling that you deserve some treat since you worked so hard.

So she works more and benefits from it less. And that makes her feel that she needs to work all those hours.

And there are people who work too much in order to escape from the rest of their lives. If you’re working, you can avoid the empty house, the unhappy marriage, the disappointing children, the spiritual emptiness… Working for these reasons is akin to drinking for those reasons.

So, anyway, “All My Heart This Night Rejoices.” Click on its name for sheet music with midi. The link at the top just has the sound file and words. This site has a slightly different arrangement, and I prefer it, but all of them are gorgeous. Paul Gerhardt wrote the words (in German) and Johann Ebeling the music, both in the second half of the 17th century. That was a great time for German carols, presumably because Lutherans allowed carols while practically everyone else was forbidding them. Catherine Winkworth translated it in 1858, and here you will find all the words, though the version in your hymnal is probably shorter.

If you have a good chamber singing group at your home or church today, you should certainly do Bach’s arrangement of this song. It’s nice with an orchestra, too, even a little orchestra, so if you have one of those on hand, definitely go for it. However, you can also just sing the traditional one with a friend or two, or even play it on your concertina, because a tune like this will bring tears to your eyes and joy to your heart with its sheer beauty, no matter what. The words, too.

I am aware that there are people who will not have this response. I am sorry for them, of course. I am also sorry for those who are working way too much and see no way to stop doing so.

Fortunately, I find today’s song sufficiently uplifting that I can transcend the weltschmerz and move right on to joy. I hope you can, too.