Thursday, November 12, 2015

Against Work: A Polemic

One of the great treatises of our time is Laura Kipnis's Against Love: A Polemic.

Although there's alot more, the take away I got was: sexual satisfaction stems from indulging in unmitigated desire, sometimes with others...and sometimes with one's self. The key being a sense of self that enables focused enjoyment, non-judgemental, self-satisfying appreciation; the wherewithal to engage without self-deprecation...a basic tenet of  "mindfulness."

In a similar vein, Chief Joseph said to the American Congress, "It  currently takes (and he used percentages) 20% of our time to satisfy our needs for food and shelter. The rest we spend with our wives and children, with our friends and enjoying our lives. If we took up your way of life (farming) it would be the opposite. We'd spend all our time plowing, sowing and harvesting... leaving little time for anything else. No thanks." (Hey, wait Joe!! How about "keeping up with the Joneses?")

Not enthused.

Western culture  -- Americans think culture is a hamburger -- is founded on the Puritan work ethic. This heinous belief system has driven both the idea that one could rise to heights of unbelievable wealth and that the purpose of wealth is leisure. 

Vincent Distasio, one of the artists I still represent, has a different view. The black sheep of a wealthy family whose siblings reside east of the Hudson River, his siblings enjoy flaunting their accumulations in the form of large domiciles, expensive dinners and shiny new vehicles. Vince, being who he is, lives in a trailer court among ruffians where he paints, as he puts it, "the pictures no one else will paint." He enjoys manual labor. And even though he holds an undergraduate degree in biology and a graduate degree in poly sci, he's spent -- after a decade of teaching science in Cuba, New Mexico in the early sixties -- the rest of his working life doing construction and tree-trimming.

In his spare time he can often be found at a local cafe eating a bear-claw, a doughnut-like  pastry. In disgust of oil-based consumerism, he rides his bicycle (see p. 137) nearly everywhere including, for over ten years, the 22 miles from his house to a jobsite at Kirtland Air Force base where he cleaned the officers' swimming pool three times a week.

As a ten-year-old he was "abused" by male relatives who made him plow a furrow behind a horse until it was straight. There was no allowance for the fact that he, as a ten year old, was being made to do a job even full-grown men found challenging. They said he'd learn from the experience.

His dad, in a similar way, would "simoniz" their car; Vince would have to buff it out. This was in the days when wax was hard and buffing-polishing could take an  entire afternoon. An afternoon when a ten-year-old would nornally have been playing ball, or exploring. When he complained that his arm was sore, his dad would yell at him that no one out in the world was going to give him a break and he better get used to it!! Work was something necessary to be endured.

Over the past 40 years as folks have seen how easy it is to become wealthy through song-writing, sports, drugs, sex and other ways that aren't as painful as plowing or simonizing, the much-touted work-ethic has lost its cachet; people have begun to appreciate Chief Joseph's perspective. But unlike the Chief, we've also been inculcated with ideas from Kafka and his ilk. i.e., existentialism and it's fundamental query of "why?"

And one of the things the first inhabitants of this segment of land used to do that garnered them criticism (consider the source) was take their time about decision-making....often a necessary element in answering the above mentioned and now all-important query.

So as you enjoy the beauty of nature, the company of friends, you can also add the sense of pleasure in working (pun intended) your way back to a pre-industrial state wherein simply being, and, perhaps, as Ms. Kipnis posits (was that what the Chief meant?), sex, was enough.

Besides, if Manny says it's so, it's so. 

Thanks to Rolling Steel Tent for inspiring this "discourse."

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