The morality of work
“Provisional Definition 2: a bullshit job is a form of employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence” ― David Graeber, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory
“When everything is subject to money, then the scarcity of money makes everything scarce, including the basis of human life and happiness. Such is the life of the slave—one whose actions are compelled by threat to survival. Perhaps the deepest indication of our slavery is the monetization of time.” ― Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition
We’re all paying a huge price for being disengaged at work, or worse still doing a bullsh*t (BS) job.
In my case, it’s exacted a huge price, not least because I’ve wasted the best years of my life doing purposeless work. Sorry, ladies and gents, money for me is not and never has been a purpose that chimes with my soul.
My mistake, and it’s one I deeply regret, is that I didn’t allow myself the space and time to question my personhood — i.e. Who am I? Instead, I rushed ahead, working harder and harder, living by a set of anodyne rules that I rarely questioned. If I did step back from the fray (which wasn’t very often — no retreats, I’m afraid), I’d always circle back to the moral imperative, which compressed any desire to change my circumstances.
In the end (in August 2010), it took a period of hospitalisation and convalescence for me to wake up and change direction in my work. For a while it worked — at least to the extent that I wasn’t constrained by a slew of meaningless rules — but the rot soon set in upon being confronted with the reality of having to provide. I could have gone all in, sold up and thrown caution to the wind, but my tiny heart and Lizard Brain conspired against my better judgement, and I ended up taking a role as CEO of a law firm, but, like so many of my previous incarnations, it was a meaningless job.
I’m making the best of what’s on offer. Paid work is paid work; the money arrives each month; the role is not overly taxing; and I’m flexing my creative muscles (but not shipping anything — duh!); and trying to keep my feet on the ground.
But it’s not me.
I want out.
I want to get back on the road to connect the dots between my own, desultory experiences and what should be possible. If anything, my story should serve as a salutary lesson how not to completely fu*k up your life — at least so far as work is concerned.
But I’ve said this before and done NOTHING.
In truth, it’s fanciful to suggest that whilst I’m paying off a mortgage (I’ll be 68 when I make the last payment!) and meeting all my other financial commitments, I’m going to have the time to kick back and spend time talking to people:
“Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.” ― E. E. Cummings
Of course, there are plenty of ways to carve up the work/life cake, and anyone with half an entrepreneurial brain can see how it might be possible to combine my skills into a mix of roles that would provide greater freedom, but then again, is anyone interested in any of this? From my standpoint, what most people gravitate towards is the hero figure who can offer a solution to their BS job, or their lack of opportunity or to turn their life around. And that’s not me. I’m an ordinary guy, trying to make my way in the world. If I do have anything to say, it’s to say loud and clear:
“Don’t make the same mistakes as me because life is too precious.”
In the past, I’ve been called a thought leader. I’m not. My thoughts are mine; yours are yours. If anything, I’m a sceptic and agitator. And of course, that doesn’t fit easily with a corporate audience — let alone the cohort of leaders keeping the edifice alive — who don’t want to be told that what they’re doing is wrong to the degree that it kills all sense of hope among those people that could make the biggest difference to their business. Even if they’re open to change, they want answers:
“You can’t handle the truth!” – Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men.” ― Aaron Sorkin, A Few Good Men
In the end, hopefully before my life ends, I’m determined to cut the Gordian Knot between the life I’m living and the one I know is possible. I’d love to have a plan — at least one I can share — but, as I’ve done so often in my life, I’ve got to trust to the soup and hope that my heart opens in a way that the draw of the new me, is greater than my nihilistic, current self.
If that sounds hopelessly romantic then so be it; but for all the good intent, I know that no amount of thrashing is going to change my life. Been there, done that. I’m confident that a space will reveal itself it to me where I can get off the treadmill and find a connection. Yes, it will come at a price apropos my current financial circumstances and, no doubt other areas of my life, but I’m confident if the scales tip towards a more soul-full life that I’ll have the courage to make the leap.
As much I can, I’ll keep you in the loop by sharing my journey here on this blog and through my monologues.