“Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.” — E.E.Cummings
This is one of my favourite quotes simply because it expands to fit our circumstances.
But…do we ever ask the right questions, particularly as they pertain to work?
Why this job as opposed to another?
Who is it that’s doing the work?
Is money and or a title the only measure of success?
Is this the only way to live my life?
And on and on…
When I think about work, I see a world consumed by it. Why? Always the money? And then consumption. And then stuff. And then what? Happiness? Sometimes. But in truth, very few people stop to examine work long enough to question why, like a moth to a flame, we can’t escape the clutches of a daily existence that does so much to deform our souls instead of awakening us to the endless possibilities of life — and not just those wrapped around a hedonistic lifestyle.
I accept it’s too easy to pick holes in the existing system. What we need is a new narrative and cohort of leaders who are willing to challenge and make good on the existing system. For a start, they should look more radically at the expression of our lives through money. They could do worse than investigate an exchange-based society; something like timebanking; or the Totnes pound; or, better still, trimming our material expectations (see what Steve Howard of Ikea had to say on peak stuff).
Of course, the picture I’m painting is my picture, and for many they will adapt themselves, as best they can, to the existing system and then live for the weekend, holidays and eventually retirement. In short, they’ll live an existence where at work they play one role and outside work something entirely different.
But is that any way to live?
I suppose in the end it comes down to how much you value life. In saying this, I’m not trying to be tendentious but when you’re willing to subsume so much of your true self to one thing, you’d like to think, despite the rhetoric, you’d pursue something that brought you to life, rather than killing you (slowly) from the inside out.
As someone who’s invested so much of their life in work, I now see how meaningless it was. Meaningless in the sense that it shrouded the real me, stopped me from examining my out-of-date, Victorian narrative (i.e. work is the meaning of life) and left me feeling empty of genuine purpose.
I know that what I say is not everyone’s experience of work, but the more I continue my journey — my complete unfolding — I realise what a fool I’ve been to waste my life’s energy on something that, on any basis, seems so utterly pointless. Of course, I’m quite sure that had I pursued something that wasn’t serving the corporate ideal that I might have been more enriched and not ground down by the system.
But what about you?
Do you think work is the best expression of your genius?
If not, what’s stopping you from doing something different?