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The Perversion of What We “Do”

October 10, 2021

We have all been at a gathering where the leader, the facilitator, says “Let’s get to work!”, or after some exercise says “Great Work!”. But we are not on our Peloton Bike, it’s a gathering. Those there are simply responding, sitting in comfort, viewing, listening and sharing – but they are described as “working”.

An actor says that performing in a play, living a life’s devotion, was “doing good work” and I think, what is work?

If it is a choice to do what we are doing, it is doing what you value, deeply, is that work? Is exertion a requirement of work? Am I working when I write this? If I watched the TV, instead of write this, am I not working?

We all “do” something, every minute of every day. But the desire to justify it makes what we do called “work” by some – that has been given the mantle of productivity, and thus worth.

I decided to teach for the first time in 30 years. “Decided” because I was offered a position, as I had been before, in other teaching places, rather than answer an ad. But that work was not substitutionary to my life’s other workings, it was additive to it. The reality is that doing this act was for me, doing the next thing in the mission of my life. It pays very little in money, but adds about 20 hours to the 60 hours every week that I do what I am called to do. It makes for 7 day weeks with every day being needed to do the things I choose to do.

If I choose to do what I value, is it “work”? Is is sacrifice?

No. Somehow it is all necessary. A full set of good things, but nothing triumphant.

Of course I attend meetings, create drawings, even make things, but my bosses are who hire me, directly, to help them – not procure a thing, but to Do a thing, together. Writing, or designing or teaching. I was not hired by a boss that I must please, I please my clients and myself in doing what I have to do to fulfill what I value.

Is that “work”?

Or is doing what we all Do, because we really cannot Do anything else. For me it is just following a mission that I am compelled to, that is not simply making money to survive. I know those who loath their jobs. I know those who love the money their job earns. I know most people enjoy their work, or what it affords and tolerate its imposition into the world they are making for themselves.

Shoeless Joe Jackson, in the movie “Field of Dreams”, says of baseball, his devotion, “Hell, I would do it for nothing.”

I do many things for no money. Like this. I expect nothing. I do not think much accrues to any benefit but expression. That is what I am compelled to do. I do not have a choice. No hobbies, no binge watching. I do eat too much, but basically only one meal a day.

Why do others need to describe doing what they value as “work”?

I cannot. I will, please God, get three articles to publishers today. Some will actually have a paycheck. Others do not. But these compulsions express what I have been given. It is a compulsion that costs but makes a life.

It is not work.

My life is about “doing”. But ascribing a work ethic to it, a regimen of dedication to some greater good, conspired to an end, dedicated to compensation is not this. For good or for ill.

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