A good job
18. Working for a living, or living for work?
“To love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.” – Kahlil Gibran on work.
Work to make a comfortable living that does not do harm, called by Zen practitioners Right livelihood, is encouraged under the Buddhist Eightfold Path, which constitutes guidelines for an ethical and satisfying lifestyle. It may take a fair amount of effort for employees to extract themselves from companies whose products and processes have destructive impacts. The whole arena of work carries signs of the weight of history’s struggles to claim ownership and fruits of labour. It’s an aspect of life that represents for many a complex and ambivalent investment of time, whose significance may change in interaction with the world, the given workplace and the individual. The theoretical field, of course, has perennial attraction for economists and political scientist types.
Karl Marx, for example, wrote, “The law of capitalist accumulation, metamorphosed by economists into a pretended law of nature, in reality merely states that the very nature of accumulation excludes every diminution in the degree of exploitation of labour, and every rise in the price of labour, which could seriously imperil the continual reproduction on an ever enlarging scale, of the capitalistic relation.” Thomas Piketty has merely updated his nineteenth-century predecessor’s observations in his modern best-seller, Capital In The Twenty-First Century, and made arguments for reigning in capitalist growth and alleviating the inevitable social inequality accompanying it.
Anyone who loves her/his work, as Ray Bradbury wrote, is blessed and generally passes on the blessing to those partaking of its output. It is, however, easy and understandable to feel that if work is or becomes a dead-end or worse, options are few. Making excuses to collect dole money can be soul-destroying, while rich families support their own in contracting brand makers for their start-ups and remaining as glamorously idle as they like. It’s much more difficult for some people than others to switch for a large variety of reasons, such as network contacts, transferable skills, industry size and growth, and savings/wealth.
A mantra of neo-liberal welfare states has recently insisted that you’re lucky to have a job, any job, even as profitable technologies ever advancing towards automation, with all fields targeted, create mass redundancies. The Occupy Movement tried to highlight deprivations of fair rewards and rights being imposed by selective austerity measures. Rick Jarrow, known as the anti-career guru for his contributions to the human transformation movement, teaches that vocation is meant to express unique life-force talent and not just be a way to survive. Jeff Klein, amongst a fortunately growing number of concerned leaders, recognises that many people don’t have the luxury to pull out of corporations and other labour entities, and tries to raise morale and standards in offices through his approach, Working for Good.
Even in the throes of upheaval of whatever kind while trying to keep down a resented job, conducting a life plan can gear up the unconscious mind to concentrate more on all potential actions that promise personal fulfilment. Templates with instructions, like this, are widely available. Those who write goals down while young have been found to attain greater success in getting what they want out of life, but it’s never too late. Negative thinking suppresses the immune system; reviewing with a wide scope life priorities and deciding, first on long-term objectives, then on shorter-term ones, enhances and mobilises it. The more specific they are, the more effective is their implementation. The joy work can bring is worth taking some trouble over, as the words of Gibran, again, convey:
“Work is love made visible. And if you can’t work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy.”
Better still, prepare well for the job the heart desires to do, and then go make a living do it!