Working for ‘The Man’ is a blessing and a curse. After being on a mid-career retirement or spousal sabbatical for almost a year, I am now back where I left off before the extended vacation, at a desk, in front a computer, working eight hours a day. It’s a surprisingly welcomed situation, though, I can’t lie, hanging out in Boulder on the daily without the responsibility of “work” was quite nice. But being back at work gives my day a different value, and one that I had started to ache for as 2015 came to an end.
Thinking about work and how we value ourselves got me thinking, “Why and how did we, as a society, decide that we needed to spend everyday working?” When was it, that we said, “you know what? I really want to spend a majority of my waking life working!” It’s a funny thing to think about, because when you break it down, it is all so subjective and completely human-made. WE created this expectation and need for work.
I imagine that when we were cloaked in buffalo skin and wandering around barefoot with sticks and stones, some guy with stoneage ADD went to an industrious friend, and was like, “Uh, I’m bored and want to build something. Got anything I can help you with?” The friend, being the relative genius thought, “hmm, I bet if I came up with stuff to do everyday, my friend would do them out of boredom. If I just give him some direction and some berries and water to keep him going, I can kick back and relax and he’ll be happy burning off energy. Win-win!” And thus, the manager-laborer relationship was born.
Of course now, building stuff now isn’t just physical but it’s people like me, staring at a screen, pounding keys all day. I can’t fathom that’s what work was ever truly meant to be, yet, here we are. And even though most “work” now can be done remotely, with technology, at a pace much quicker than generations before us, our work schedule remains the same? Why is that? Doesn’t it seem that technology should make us at least 20% more efficient than the generation ahead of us? Just the increased expediency of communication alone would seem to be reflected in that percentage. But has the work week gone from 40 hours to 32? I think not.
All I’m saying is that working is funny, when you step back and think about it. I mean, at one point we had to do it to eat! And I’m not talking about having to do it to afford going to the grocery store, I mean we literally had to go hunt and kill our food. Now we work for the bottom line, making money. We live to make money for other people to get a little for ourselves. It’s an odd dynamic, and one that we did to ourselves, and now it’s the norm. But somehow it works. And for the record, I’m glad I get to go to my office everyday to work and don’t have to go out with a spear and hunt dinner everyday. That just sounds plain exhausting!