I came across this poem in a novel and it caused me to pause. Today, conversation abounds about the need for balance in our lives; we’ve somehow come to believe that at the heart of this dilemma is the stress of modern times. The poem titled, The Choice by William Butler Yeats was written in the early 20th century – a fitting reminder that our quest for balance isn’t simply a reality for our time, but a condition of all time. So before you read the poem, just ask yourself:
- Do we have to choose between success in life and work?
- Is it the search for perfection of one or the other that forces the choice?
- Is it possible to simply pursue our passion without regard for what defines “life” versus “work”?
The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work,
And if it take the second must refuse
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.
When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?
In luck or out the toil has left its mark:
That old perplexity an empty purse,
Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.
William Butler Yeats, 13 June 1865 – 28 January 1939