A good job

18. Working for a living, or living for work?

The place of service.

“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!


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About prism

My background is in different aspects of healthcare, and in enduring several instances of terrible times which have hopefully yielded some positive lessons that'll make it easier next time, and that can be passed on here and elsewhere. I started this particular blog after someone I know received a serious medical diagnosis. May she and all who have difficulties be liberated from suffering! Compiling the topics revives an intention I've been harbouring to record guidelines about living skills I'd picked up in the past that remain outstandingly sound sources of advice. I hope, amidst all the information out there, these tips may inspire others too. : )

2 responses to “A good job”

  1. Amy Putkonen says :

    I left a job last December that was killing me. It was not killing me immediately, but it was one of those situations that gets so bad that you are forced to do something about it. I did… I quit. It was a scary decision, but I ended up getting a new job before my two weeks notice was even up. Now, I love my job. I lost a 45 minute commute (oh darn), I stopped running between tasks. Now I saunter and it’s a new kind of lovely.

    As I contemplated leaving this old job (for years, mind you) I thought a lot about right livelihood. Although I supported what my company did, I wanted to move toward something that had more personal meaning for me. So I went back to education. Although I do not currently teach, I am working in the schools and this is very rewarding to me. My pay is less, but I also only work 4 days a week now which gives me time to write and do other fun things. I also save myself about 10 hours a week in getting to and fro. Money isn’t always the bottom line, thankfully.

    So nice post. Thanks for bringing this important topic to the limelight. It so deserves it.

  2. prism says :

    Thanks for your story, Amy. You set out the drivers very well, the turning points, the fears and the rewards. I was in that boat too, I think an awful lot of people are, in a sort of purgatory to pay off debt, or just because it seems ungrateful not to stay. You have been providing a valuable service to the world. Have you thought of compiling the Tao essays and publishing them in book form? A viable project, I’d say : ) All best.

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