Why Work?

35mm film photograph of a gate leading to the Garden of Dreams in Kathmandu, Nepal circa 2015.

It all is work. Being alive and embodied is consuming. The time spent in motion, the burning of calories, the eating, the processing, the excreting — it all uses energy.

At its core, work is simply a means to an end. The hope is always that there could be more to it. Something like a purpose or a calling. Most often there is nothing like this in mind. There is just work.

At first, recognizing life as work didn’t bring me much understanding. There was discomfort and adirection in this knowing. I found it hard to focus anymore, to set goals and move toward accomplishment. There was a sense of always it being work on the self, in body or mind, and lately this started to seem incredibly narcissistic. Even the goal of working to better empathize — to better see people for themselves and not their purpose in my life — this felt more like some strange reverse narcissism than any attempt at improving the world in general.

For a while, everything encountered fit into a beautiful narration, my own reality: Strange Encounters of the Personal Kind. What Donavon said. What Brittany said. What Dakota, Jonathan, and Charlie said, it was only for me. It could be for no other, at least not at first, as it was shared only between each of us in pairs.

So what is the work, or returning to the start of this essay, what are the ends?

The goal must be to narrate, to express. To recraft the waste of the mindstuff into something worth growing. How is this other than the stories shared uninterrupted, countless times as people worked to connect, to share some essential knowledge amongst meaningless anecdotes? Humans did this in mass. Solitude allowed the narration of the mind, the working on oneself, the unblocking of fear and frustration.

But, if the goal is to narrate, it can only be a part of someone’s story, and it felt strange to give a monologue, internal or external, alone or recorded, and have this be work.

Plenty of people had “real” work. This is whatever culture demanded get done. A penchant for this or that and then the rut of behavior took over. Skills achieved and a timeless path worn bare in each moment lived in reaction and repetition. Though, this progression of self came with a sense of fulfillment. Myriad justifications for why this is our specific and unique work: The life we never asked for played out on the path we thought fit for our self. It felt natural to move each way we had. The entropy of the future made it hard to know what would come, so the focus is on the past work and how to apply it, to use it to prepare for the future. Little is understood the massive role of narration in our life’s work.

Think about it: All media consumed is narration. All stories told, teachers, friends, family, and lovers, they only offer narration too. It is rare for people to sit or act in quietude, without comment, expectation, or purpose, and least of all without narration afterwards of what had taken place. An individual is the sum of their stories (the ones that play in their minds, not the ones in the history books). Consciousness is awareness of the narration. This is the end. This is what we work towards. This is understanding, but there is so much other work in the middle: Technologies, institutions, movements, societies, the work of sustaining. The real work is in living itself, preparing the mind for understanding and filtering narrations. The writing of your personal story each day. In this there are all the melodramas of human existence. It didn’t matter where you were born, or under what circumstance. (Yes, those change the story telling, and it gets complex very quickly, but they don’t fundamentally matter to the idea of working.)

It is amazing more crises of self do not turn pathological, or maybe most of us are, so we continually redefine the term.

This illusion of anything other than continued narrative being work seems to occupy most minds. The perspective there are actually good things to do all day, better than others, absolutely, this is narcissism, the understanding of the self as paramount and not separate from its work.

Even working for others, this is a means for some narrated end. The mind itself (or maybe whoever is observing the play of mind) always creates the understanding. It is as though there is a blessing from God that our way is important and just.

Wrapped in the garb of civilization and guided by society itself, all work is relative to time. All careers, goals, and justifications for how to act, these are but a play in the mind written from hundreds of thousands of fragmented narratives. To try and say something new is as crazy as a wild donkey trying to breed a horse to save its species. Mentally, most of us are raised just as sterile as mules. Either ideas are planted in barren soil or the seeds themselves were never capable of growth.

They say it’s not people who breed ideas: The ideas are breeding people, and work is always the carrying through of ideas. This is not only the big ideas of government, technology, society, civilization, family, and solidarity. It is also the ideas to feed yourself, clothe yourself, clean yourself, and shelter yourself. To make sure the body stayed alive, babies have to be raised in some culture of thought. This is passed on generation to generation: Take care of yourself. Work on yourself. Know your place and purpose. Keep at it. Do the work. Put in the work. Move. Stay in motion. Change. Cover distance. Improve. Get up off your lazy ass and do something kid. If not for others, at least be for yourself. Figure out your work and do it. This is the ideas breeding people.

Call it the wheel of endless suffering, dharma, karma, consumerism, incorporated takeover, whatever. It is all the result of an overly organized and systematic blind narration of conglomerated content. A headless blunder operating under the illusion of a masterplan. An amalgamated mass of ideas breeding all sorts of donkey ways inside real minds in real people and moving them this way and that. Breeding more narrations and ideas into future generations with a greater understanding of only nonsense and noise. What we have is a mental orgy and a physical mess.

The work, the only thing I could see to do, was stopping the wheel. Pointing out the narration with the only thing that possibly could — another narration.

If you read the right books, watch the right movies, listen to the right people, you know it’s really all been said before, but the ideas are breeding. They’re mutating. Communication itself is ephemeral — at least the specific means — so there is need always to update the thoughts and re-express the ideas in a way that makes sense. Maybe all this could be said better in a painting or a poem or a clever meme. The information embedded in new seeds, planted in new soil, something ready for growth.

After a certain age, there is the recognition and hope for future generations. The aged, like trees, becoming rigid, rotting, and then breaking, often from the inside out, it’s hard to notice until you start paying attention. Experience creates rigidity of thought in most people, and those that can change often don’t have the energy when they’re done remaking themselves to make a real difference in the world. So the young become the place to utilize the energy of life to force a new order, creating a new sense of work and what is to be done.

There is nothing inherent in progress to make it a goal. At some points the goal is simply sustaining. It might only be a fundamental sense of the undone — the thought and unacted, the imagined and nonmanifested—that leads to doing. If it can be thought, then it should be done…

This idea in mind becomes a demon. An energetic entity as a thoughtform manifesting physical situations. Another thinking could just as easily create an angel of the mind, but this is just a flip side of the same coin.

Life, movement, work, is polarity. It’s difference. Without difference there is no force. No compulsion. No attraction in any direction. Work is made from difference, the energy between poles, the force of movement. This difference is always between what is and what is imagined. Accepting what is, there is no need for work. With everything in order, there is no need to move. But, with angels & demons, it’s another story.

There is an endless desire to bring virtues and vices into the world, and which is which is again a matter of cultural garb. It is all work — good or bad, it is always a means to a different end.

Getting up each day meant another choice to work or simply exist. To narrate or tune out.

If the choice is for more work, for more life, the awareness can be on the narration inspiring action. Here is where the potential for change exists. The addition of purpose to otherwise meaningless work. From the narration there can come the awareness of work to do — a future imagined and strove for. A new set of ideas to breed. These mental children, we never do know how they will grow up. We do our best to form them, thoughtfully, to raise them right. We put forth our best effort at something like speaking our truth — telling our story. Putting something into the world in the hope it will be heard. In the hope our work matters. In the hope we can make a difference.

Thoughts to action to experience and to thoughts again. The breeding of people from ideas. The continuation of families and nations. The production of a lasting world order. Without the continued work of consciousness to engage at these levels, these ideas would die. Much would, and then what would be the work? Is the striving for food akin to striving to know? Do we really need to understand what work is for in order to live?

Humanity has certainly been bred to work at life. There is no other effort exerted except along the keeping of life, the easing of life, its extension and its continuation. Without the ideas that support this path, work itself would change, and it’s hard to imagine what life would be then. What sort of work would there be without a sense of the undone, without a difference between what is and what is imagined?

So accepting work as a means to an end, and understanding the end depends on the means, it becomes important to visualize, to dream, to place a conscious intention onto action. To understand that while we’re alive, action itself is not the choice, for we must act to live. The choice is how to act. In what ways do we want to expend energy. How do we want to work. For we all need to do something all day, in addition to building our narratives. By minding of what these are made — considering what talks we take in, what ideas breed in us — there is some hope for control (or maybe only something like guidance) of life. Conscious awareness can set about to understanding the role of ideas in work and the part played by narration in the choice of work. What drives each of us to get up each day and do? What is the motive for living? This maybe the most personal and individual question, and it is at the heart of work.

Knowing why life is worth the work of living led me to an understanding of my place in time. The ideas of what to do all day came, later on, as the motivating forces became coherent.

This is the growth of the individual, the effect of culture, and the breeding of new ideas. This is the work of life, to instill the life of work in future generations, to keep the halls of society full and familiar, and at its best, to offer some wise narration for how to do it better.

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Harvard educated, New York based revolutionary Mike Wayne continues to sow seeds within the field of necessary illusions. Go to: https://diaryofananarchist.com

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Mike Wayne

Mike Wayne

Harvard educated, New York based revolutionary Mike Wayne continues to sow seeds within the field of necessary illusions. Go to: https://diaryofananarchist.com

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