Conservative Myths About Work and Pay

Conservative Myths About Work and Pay

On Friday, we introduced the notion of the work—the idea borrowed from Seth Godin that you have a special activity at this time of your life that endows your moments with supreme satisfaction and joy when you do it. And we said we would be discussing how young progressives can use the work to build a future that is consonant with their ideals and dreams.

But today we’re going to discuss a preliminary difficulty before we get to talking about the work proper: a misapprehension about work and remuneration caused by the prevalence of conservative Myths in the culture around us.

Remuneration and work

The Major Myths have made it very difficult to see that work does not have to be remunerated labor. In our Myth-based culture, so many people hate what they do for a living that many people assume work has to be disagreeable. This is confirmed by the exception: When people say, “If you can find a job that you enjoy, you’ve got it made!” they take it for granted that the rule is not finding a job that you enjoy. The delight with which many people greet quitting time is reminiscent of children rushing out of school at the end of the day. Most people seem to believe that work is just disagreeable toil.

This certainly isn’t true. Many people pour lots of work into activities they do not get paid to do: hobbies, sports, recreational pursuits, gardening, home repair, volunteering, and so on. Doing these things out of interest rather than duty, enjoying the labor and the fruits of the labor—isn’t this just as much work, only without the depressing negativity? And the contrast in attitude can be astonishing. The difference in demeanor could’t be more striking between someone engaging in work he or she enjoys and someone trading unpleasant labor for money.

Given the current state of society, it is probably the case that the work that is most satisfying and meaningful for you will be located outside the sphere of wage labor. Which is just to say that you will have to do it during your “real life,” when you are not earning money. You will have to start to think in a new way about how you spend your life energies. (This is the beginning of becoming the creator of your own life.) If you must exchange work for a pay, and if you can’t do the work at your job, then you need to create a new space in your life for it. In addition to putting your daily activities into slots for job, relationships, health, and recreation, you need a new category for the work.

Tomorrow we will discuss what distinguishes the work from other activities.

Until tomorrow, then.

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