Sunday Snippet: Bishop Richard Cumberland (1631-1718)

“It is better to wear out than to rust out.”

I’ve written several times before about the importance of finding life-work balance. We all would probably agree that it is worthwhile to pursue your life’s passions and do what you need to do to pay the bills, but there is also something to be said about valuing your leisure time and taking it easy when possible. That may be true, but it may be even better to find life-work integration instead.

You don’t want to get stagnant. You don’t want to get complacent. As much as you may be tempted to do so, you may not necessarily want to fall into a gentle state of comfort either. Just as is the case when it comes to your muscles, if you don’t use it, you might lose it. Muscles atrophy from lack of use and the same thing can be said when it comes to mental activities. We thrive on mental stimulation, rather than monotony, and that is one of the most critical factors in having satisfying work. We want to be challenged, even when the work is difficult to do.

And that is fundamentally the concept being expressed by Bishop Richard Cumberland in the quote above. The 17th century English philosopher served as the bishop of Peterborough for a number of years. His most famous work, De legibus naturae (On natural laws), was published in 1672. In it, he supported the concept of utilitarianism. Do something, because it is a means that leads to an end. It serves a purpose.

In this way, he’s not promoting hard work for its own sake. You shouldn’t wear yourself out doing something that doesn’t matter, but it’s worth wearing yourself out over something that does. This is far better than rusting out from a sheer lack of activity. If you lay dormant, you may as well be dead.

The same sentiment was echoed by Ray Kroc, who helped to build McDonald’s into one of the world’s most successful fast food chains.

“When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.”

Frequent reader of this blog Ray Ebersole has brought up this quote on more than one occasion and I completely agree. We should strive to continue learning and continue growing. It really is better than to wear out (and achieve something) than to rust out (and become useless).