“I need so much time for doing nothing that I have no time for work.” -Pierre Reverdy
“It pisses me off every time I think about anybody thinking that work will liberate.” -Bell Hooks
“I am presently too prosperous for work.” -me
Please do not tell my wife what I am about to say. She would not be very happy about the sentiments that I am going to express here. You see, I don’t mind being out of work. Most Americans live in fear of this prospect, but I embrace it. Granted, the financial stress and my wife’s condemnations are hard to carry around from day to day, but the otherwise chronic feeling of liberation and freedom makes never having enough money easier to deal with. You see, America is a country based upon the principle of work and the illusion of freedom. Without a full-time job in this country you are screwed or relegated to the periphery. Without job and ensuing money one is unable to enjoy the bountiful materialism and gluttony that America has to offer. To not get to partake in this feast can be taxing on the nerves and self esteem, however since I have been out of work for more than eight months I have been asking myself, could there be another way live?
Now don’t get me wrong. I like nice things as much as the next person. I love going to spas, eating nice meals, taking yoga classes, drinking high end wine and having a luxurious bed to sleep in- but I don’t partake in these things at the moment. Instead what I have gained is time. A plethora of time. By not having a job I have lost money but gained time. Time to sleep in, time to sun bathe in mid afternoon, time to go for long walks everyday, time to read the books that I love to read, time to work on a novel, time to be with my wife, time to watch the sun set, time to contemplate the nature of existence, time to meditate, time to better my relationship with my cat and time to work on my own spiritual and psychological development (in other words I have time to be fully alive). When I think back to the time when I was working a job I remember not having much time for any of these simple pleasures. I was stressed out, tired, discontent and overworked. Sure I had a lot more money in my bank account. I knew the rent was going to be paid. I could afford to go out to dinner every night and see a shrink. I could buy my cat expensive cat food and take him to the vet when he had a chronic itch. But I got to ask- was all this really worth it?
In physics work is defined as the amount of energy transferred by a force. In thermodynamics work is defined as the quantity of energy transferred from one system to another. Work refers to human labor and labor is a measure of work done by human beings. Even though work is a loss of energy for the human being, work is not necessarily a bad thing. I know many people who truly love working (even though I think this is because they have forgotten the simple pleasures of living). If one is transferring their energy into something that is a unique expression of who they are and what they love- then I would say that even though work will be exhausting, it could be worthwhile. Even though it is a generalization, I believe it to be an accurate generalization to say that most people who work in America are transferring energy from themselves into another system, a process, which they do not enjoy or love but do because they need to pay the bills and attempt to live the illusive American dream.
I always saw work as an unfair punishment. Just because Adam fucked up in the Garden of Eden does not mean that my life should be subjected to a life spent working by the sweat of my brow. This does not seem fair to me. Living in America, I cannot help to see the numerous amounts of people who are willingly paying the price for Adam’s sin. The whole edifice of America is based upon people laboring day after day by the sweat of their brow just because Adam had to eat a piece of fruit.
I don’t mind putting effort to accomplish a task. I do this when I write, paint, walk, cook, read and clean out the birdcage. What I do mind is when I feel obligated to transfer energy from one system to another system when I cannot stand the whole process. And this is where the problem of employment comes in. You see, employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer the other being the employee. An employee may be defined as a person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written, where the employer has the power to control and direct the employee in the details of how the work is done. Employees provide labor. I think it is fair to say that most American are employees and I feel like it is also fair to say that this condition has created a country built upon the backs of slaves.
I have always made a terrible employee. I do not appreciate being told what to do- especially by employers who just want to use up all of my energy without any thought about my own personal well-being. In my twenty years of working I have only experienced brief moments of pleasure as an employee and I think it is fair to assume that this true for most of us. No one likes being told what to do, no one likes being used, no one enjoys having energy sucked from them- but this is what it means to be an employee. This is why Americans are so fascinated by celebrities, who are people who have escaped from the human bondage of being an employee. Employee’s look upon these celebrities with envy, in the same way the Greeks once looked upon their Gods. You see, in American the employee is no longer shackled by visible chains- instead they are shackled by car payments, credit cards, cable bills, electric bills, taxes, mortgages and the marketed desire for the American dream. What we Americans end up giving away in exchange for the American dream is free time and freedom.
Since I have been out of work I have had to give up my cable bill, move into a less expensive home, not eat out so often and spend more time reading rather than going out for entertainment. I have had to sleep in rather than get up early and spend a lot more time with myself, nature, fresh air then with bosses and people wanting things from me. I have been redefining success as a way of thinking where I realize that leisure is essential to my mental health rather than a cause for guilt. I have realized that I do not have to spend my life struggling, striving to make ends meet through working a job. I am learning to appreciate what I have instead of endlessly questing for more growth and discovering my passions without worrying about trying to fit them into the form of a job.
It is now eleven am and everyone that I know is at work. My mother just called me and asked if I have found a job yet. My Grandfather told me in my dream how important it is that a man works hard ever day. Outside it is raining and there is traffic in the streets. I am still dressed in what I slept in, my hair is uncombed and I have just finished breakfast. Even though outside the world of maximizing profits is full swing, inside the walls of my home I feel like I am living on an island, outside the system; an unemployed exile in my own country. I wonder if the only way to really save the planet is to have more people out of work, at home and spending more time with themselves. I know this will never happen because I live in a culture addicted to getting stuff done and accumulating wealth in exchange for freedom. Everyone wants to be somebody, to accomplish something and have the social status and economic prosperity that comes along with it. But I think this is faulty logic. The world of work and accumulation has no beginning and no end. It is like the cat chasing its own tail, and for what? I would rather rest, write, breathe, read and be. I would rather keep my energy for myself, my health, my peace of mind rather than laboring it away day after day. But maybe this is an impossible dream, a joy that refuses to hang around because eventually I have to go back to work (if I want to keep my wife).