Labor Day


This is the day we celebrate workers. We celebrate the workers that we are by not working. The reward for doing a job well done for working my butt off is not working. We work and work and work in order to get “Free Time” where we don’t have to work. Traditionally Labor Day marked the end of summer for kids. The ultimate end to “Free Time” and the return to work in the dreaded institutions of school, where we are taught earlier and earlier, it seems, to put our head down and buckle under and take the test and get A’s and work real hard so that we can get into a good college where we will work even harder so that we can get a good job where we will work even harder, so that we can look forward to not working some day. So that we can dream about not working.

I don’t know about you but this feels all wrong some how. This feels like it was cooked up by some folks who don’t like to work much but like to have lots of money as a way to create a system filled with unhappy people who are always looking for the fleeting moment of happiness that comes with the “free time” of their summer vacations and their occasional 3 day weekends, and people who will do all the work that is necessary to do so that they don’t have to. ….or something like that.

I also notice that those “free time” hours and days seem to get cut back more and more as the system demands more of the same from all of us. Summer vacations get shorter and kids have more homeWORK, so that even the hours of what used to be play after school at home are now filled with work. Adults bring their work home or take a second job so that they can make more money so that they can support their families and have something fun to do in the free time. Because if they don’t work those extra hours and they don’t have fun things to do and stuff to play with, well then they will just have to make due with each other and nobody has learned how to do that in this system. We have gotten so busy with work that we have forgotten how to be in relationship with each other just the way we are.

Now this is not all about hating or disrespecting work. I love to work and I know plenty of people who love to work. I love that feeling of accomplishment after successfully completing a task or a project. I love the feeling after a WORKout at the gym. I even sometimes like the sweat and effort itself. I am not fond at all of the time before work, anticipating it, dreading it, resisting it and “recommitting to it”. I realize that all of those feeling are caused by beliefs that are founded in this system I have grown up in that says “Work is something to get through to accomplish, so that you can enjoy the freedom on the other side.” Well I always wanted that freedom from the very beginning and never have understood why I had to postpone it while I performed some onerous task. And yet the belief still is there that “Work is Bad, but ‘good for you’” and because of that belief I know that I have to work and going in I don’t want to.

Now here we are in a recession with 10% unemployment (what does that mean anyway? That number feels so made up. You go into some towns and it feels like 75% unemployment and you walk into a humming operation and it feels like 0%. You talk to people under 30 and over 50 who are unemployed and you won’t find a lot of hope there.) The talk is now all about Jobs for people. Get them back to work. Let’s not get them back to work because it will make them happy though, lets get them back to work so they can buy stuff. When they buy stuff the economy is happy (Boy when I go to sleep thats what dances in my head, are visions of a happy economy). Something is very wrong here.

I just realized in the hot tub on Saturday with Karen that I am retired. I am retired from this system. I could never understand retirement, because somehow in that old belief system it felt like a time of NO-WORK. It felt like a time of hobbies and golf and mahjong. I could never see myself there. I see myself committed to my purpose and serving it and life until the day I drop. So I have never been able to get my hands around this “permanent free time” that is somehow the reward for a lifetime of work. Bad work is now done, good free time is now here – time to shoot myself or die in some other way. Time to head out to the pasture or the old folks home where I will no longer be a part of the system or the voices that shape the dream of life.

Sorry folks I just can’t see that for mySelf. I am retired NOW. What that means is that I am no longer going to hold work as something a have to do in order to someday be able to retire and live the good life. I am living the good life now and intend to keep living the good life until the day I drop. I am retired NOW and what that means is that I will do the work I want to do when I choose to do it. I will do work that feeds my mind, soul, spirit and body. If I should catch myself doing work that doesn’t feed me then I will stop and make a choice. Either it starts feeding me or I stop doing it. I am going to be both 100% and 0% employed and and Unemployed.

Now how will the economy add in that statistic?

A Caveat. This is also the day we celebrate the Labor Movement. The movement that kept workers from being treated as slaves by the same system that created this bizarre concept of work and consumerism. I want those rights of those workers to be protected and freely bargained for by their representatives. I want whatever is happening now in politics to stop taking away the rights of the people to express themselves and organize in ways that support each other.

2 responses to “Labor Day

  1. A mixture of recent thoughts and noticings popped up for me as I read this, Henry… an article in today’s WSJ about end-of-summer blues; noticing how I swim against or ahead or around the tide as I was shopping for groceries upon my return from backpacking in Yosemite while others were shopping for groceries to go away for the holiday weekend; I spent the holiday weekend working while others were out playing. I play while others work…and when I work, I am happy. When I play, I am happy. I’ve spent much of my life trying to get out of the system, and in recent years it has turned to being part of a resonant movement evolving toward (well, is it a new system? I don’t know – can’t know until I’m looking back).

    Your post also had me think of a story my friend Margo told me some 30 years ago. Her parents rarely took vacations. They always wanted to go to Hawaii and they kept saying, “when we retire.” Finally, her father retired and they set up that vacation to Hawaii. The morning they were supposed to leave on their trip, her father stood up out of bed and collapsed from a heart attack. He died. That story, yes it’s true, struck a chord in me that has never faded.

    I’m joining your movement Henry: “I am going to be both 100% and 0% employed and and Unemployed.”

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