“Keep grinding”

A mentor once told me this. At the time I didn’t understand its profundity.

To the uninitiated, “Keep grinding” can mean “Keep being miserable.” Think of the railroad worker who feels a shooting pain through his spine every time he swings his sledge hammer, who can’t wait for his lunch break, who can’t wait to go home to his wife and kids, who can’t wait for the weekend so he can watch football and “pursue his passions.” The uninitiated are always looking towards a “better,” “happier,” future where they feel no pain. In this way the uninitiated remain in Hell.

But, to the initiated, “Keep grinding” means “This is where happiness is found.” The same railroad worker could simply focus and swing his hammer. He could tell himself how important his work is, letting people get from point A to point B. He need not think about the next hour, the next day, or the coming weekend. He could let his sledge hammer lead him to enlightenment. In this way the initiated reach Heaven.

I’m always struck by that scene in HBO’s Chernobyl, where a group of miners willingly go to their death to save an entire country: