06 September 2007

Work vs. Life

(This post was edited 6 Sept, 11:17MDT, adding the bit about Ray Jenkins and my dad.)

Yesterday, I saw a posting on Lifehacker that pointed to a Wired article that suggested ways for people to "put your vacation behind you and successfully re-enter the workplace". They say that "your mind needs to adjust to a world in which responsibility and discipline are important parts of daily operation". Of all the comments, I was the only person who said anything other than, "Yes! This is helpful!" I wrote:

Instead of "getting back into work mode", why don't people spend a bit of time trying to discover why they need to get back into "work mode"? I've had "vacation hangovers", and they have helped me to question the entire system. Maybe others should do the same. Vacations don't have to be "respite from work". Instead, we can mold our lives into something that is a mix of "work" and "vacation", something pleasant and which is worth waking up every day.

How we as a society are functioning at the moment isn't "the only way". There are other options, and they could very well be "better", more sustainable, and more enjoyable.

There are so many assumptions and misrepresentations of real life in these few words that it's pretty amazing. First, why the dichotomy of "work sucks, vacation is great"? It's not true. Doing what you love and making your livelihood from it is rewarding and fulfilling, and vacations can often be stressful times full of disaster. My suggestion: life as you wish, doing what you love, in concert with the universe, and you won't need "vacation"; your entire life will be wonderful.

Another issue is the idea that responsibility and discipline aren't part of life other that "at work". This is a major societal problem in the United States. Everyone thinks that you bust your ass for work, then fuck off completely in your spare time. There is no balance in that approach, and it only benefits the corporations and those who run them. The people are basically slaves, unfulfilled, worked to death, and with no real purpose. That is a form of existence, but it's not any kind of a life.

One example of not using your "non-work time" in a fulfilling manner is in an article from the Burlington Free Press about Ray Jenkins, the United States' oldest "worker". Ray says, "I can't sit quiet and do nothing. I've got to keep going. Keeps your mind occupied. If you don't keep busy, forget it." My dad was the same way. When he retired from a job of 30+ years, he sat at home, having no clue what to do with himself. He tried a few things, but eventually found another job at a similar company to keep himself occupied. He didn't know how else to spend his time but "to work".

And what disgusted me more than the fact that the article exists (and was referenced) in the first place? It was probably the fact that all of the other comments to the post and article were so deeply embedded into the system that they couldn't see anything wrong. One person wrote, "vaaaycaayshun? Never heard that word before... oh right that's where my owner goes 3-5 times a year..." Another commenter is more blunt: "people have time for vacations?" Or take this simple advice that probably underlies every comment but mine: "like Nike...just do it" No one other than me suggested anything other than "get back to work and forget your vacation".

What a sad state in which our society finds itself, where people think they must do boring and unfulfilling things for 50 weeks out of the year, then take 2 weeks to do nothing important only to return to unfulfilling things and forget the 2 weeks ever happened! We would be better of if we were formally slaves, knowing our part. This giant lie of "freedom" is truly soul-destroying.