The tyranny of ‘work’
Our work contexts – largely defined by the relationship between the corporation and wage-earning employees – are increasingly held together by the value of efficiency: the imperative that prompts us to look for the best option that improves performance and economic productivity. As a result, we’ve learned to see and understand ourselves only as valuable to the extent we contribute to this agenda. If we are not ‘performing’, our dispensability increases. Other beautiful impulses fade away: our needs for play, to simply be, to try something different, to be valued not merely for what one contributes, to fail generously, to be spontaneous, and to be appreciated as cosmic nodes of grace are silenced or explained away in a hurry. Consequently, we work longer and longer hours in designated work environments – and, more often than not, bring our work home with us – lest we fall behind on this exhausting race for ever-increasing efficiency. Could there be any other singular reason why our most intimate relationships suffer – or why the chances are now more favorable that we never even notice how those that count on us the most work even harder to earn our attention?
But as people around the world recognize that the economic story no longer speaks to their deep needs, the monoculture of mind that has colonized our notions of relationship and directed all human activity towards eternal plunder and perpetual productivity is becoming more visible – and more vulnerable. The iron fences are coming down, and through the gaps in the wall we are glimpsing the indescribable. We have no easy words for the queer horizons in the distance – no dead-sure concepts. We are confused. However, that confusion is become a rallying cry for the most audacious movement of voices we’ve seen in recent memory. Replacing our drying wells of expertise and professional wisdom is a ‘new’ collective sense of wonder and irreverence. And a beautiful instructive silence – one that whispers to us in small spaces that life need not be a marathon race or a protracted attempt to outwit the other; one that suggests to us that the ‘reality’ of low self-esteem (which seems to be all the rave these days) is perhaps a by-product of our present social circumstances, and one that inspires us to slow down…knowing that with every step we arrive at the very spot we never left.
Painting by Cindy Tower