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August 8, 2015


Work: pry bar of money or misery? Cause of exhaustion or mission? Excuse or inspiration? Work is undoubtly the key method to assert control in our lives.

Its clear that even on vacation, control is of sad importance in my life.

I take one week off a year. This year, like the 19 preceeding it had emails, photos, drawings, faxes and phone calls keep the scores of balls in the air, versus dropped.

I did this to myself: when my employees go on vacation, I bother them not a wit: but I ache to be bothered by them on vacation, and thus I am: so do I benefit from remote control work one week a year as much as total simulation of control back at the office?

In one of those 20 years I have left the office I had to remotely fire someone and thus run his project from my week off: I felt differently the entire next year. I had grown to rely on a reset.

Its not about others, it really is about the need to sense that I have direction, am needed to help control the circumstances I have created for myself.

We all have control over some things: what we wear, what we watch, our politics. Other things we only control if other things fall into place: – who we love, what we eat, where we live.

But in the whole there is almost nothing controllable. No other being knows this. We more or less know we will end, but not really, unless you are in fugue state or an 19th century Parisian. We measure, postulate, conclude, “know” – but we really know nothing about so much that when we sense our remaining ignorance we have a drink, watch a show or look to mate.

We don’t control much because we do not know much. And we do not like that.

But there is work.

Work is not control. Work simulates the effects of control.

“Just DO IT.”

We feel better doing – sometimes doing is enough. But when you are done, its revealed only to be what it is – action to accomplish in the things you can control. It does not render control. Work lives in the controllable world, it only gives what its allowed to.

After a historically great high school football team was revealed to have zero control against a factually better adversary, their great football coach simply said:

“All that’s left, for us, is work.”

No championship, no winning season, no all-state honors, no achievement, no reward except getting better.

No reward except getting better. That may be the message of work. The failures of non-obtainment are all too clear. The potential for fulfilling fantasies of getting through an unknown, gaining control of something not, ultimately, controllable are hopes, not facts.

No matter what skills you have they are dust if you do not put them into play. Its usually not enough – But you can get better. You can control getting better.

Better is always possible. But better is seldom good enough.

The act of work can be a little bit of control. At least we have that. But “least” is part of it. It is the triumph of the best outcome from least expectation that makes the idea of control possible.

Until they played the game against a clearly superior opponent, those high school players had the expectation, or at least the hope, of control.

As rain comes and goes, as some friends have babies and some die, as Donald Trump may come to be our Classiest president yet, most of us are clueless about how those things came to be: let alone why.

We cannot even understand the force that makes everything – everything – gravity. Similarly the molecules that create everything – what IS the stuff that makes everything? Of course these universals of energy and matter are measured, their properties understood: but what, actually, Are they?

Despite naming them – God Particle, Dark Matter/Energy – the essential “How’s” of the most basic elements of existence remain unknown. Not known, so not controllable.

If we knew these things maybe we could know our fate, the “Why’s” of our lives and that might take the burden off our “What’s”. We are the only beings that can even ask “why”, but we have no hope of knowing the answers of what makes me understand that I need vacation, but can never have rest.

But I have work.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 13, 2015 10:35 am

    I can assume that you are also aware that you are one of the blessed people that your work is creative work. Most people do not have creative work, My happy place is working on a
    design, its not for the money, like most architects I suspect ———

  2. August 15, 2015 4:10 pm

    As Michael says, your work is creative work, it nourishes your soul, your being. You are one of the lucky people. I get to be creative at my job, they’ve come to expect that of me, it makes work less work, more fun. The days spent upholstering teh boss’ chair, or the centrifuge, are offset by dealing with the cracked sink, or unintentionally defrosted -80c freezer. It can’t all be fun and games!


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