I browsed Google for other images of work -- so many of them were focused on computers, desks, chairs - and often there were no people included at all! I looked at several dictionaries for definitions of "work" - the first definition in most volumes was about effort - "activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result" from Merriam-Webster. I guess computers and other machines "work" - but to me, effort is a purposeful phenomenon, complete with choices and behaviors, most often done by humans or other animals. What do you think?
I remember something that my anthropology professor at Transylvania University said -- that, throughout history, most of human effort has gone toward figuring out how to work less. True or not?
Why do we work? Do we work primarily to earn money for food, clothes, shelter, medical care, and some extras? Is it one of the ways that we find meaning in our lives? Is it something that we do that contributes to the well-being of others? All or none of the above?
I love my work for which I am paid. I do find meaning in it, and I get pleasure and satisfaction from it. It helps me support myself and the family. And I believe/hope that it contributes to the well-being of others outside of my family. Most of all, I love (most of) the people I work with. We may not sweat much or bump up against each other, but we do talk, argue, and, thankfully, laugh a lot. I do admit that some of the time work is work - it is hard. But I am always grateful for the job that I have and the work that I feel called to do.
Do you feel secure in your work - your job or career? We are living in times when things don't feel so secure. Unemployment figures for the last month were just released a couple of days ago - and it wasn't good news. It's hard not to feel some anxiety or worry - or even anger - when reading news about the national work scene.
A different question - do you feel safe at work? Is your work setting physically safe? Emotionally safe? Does your work involve risks or dangers for you, your community, or society?
The March on Blair Mountain, happening today into next weekend, is in large part about work - people are gathering to advocate for safe, fairly-compensated, humane work that does not harm their homes or sense of well-being:
Hundreds of people from Appalachia and across the nation will embark on an historic march to demand an end to mountaintop removal, the strengthening of labor rights, sustainable job creation in Appalachian communities, and the preservation of Blair Mountain.
Does your work nurture or threaten your sense of well-being? Work often requires people to move away from home, even though for many people being near family and loved ones, living in a place that feels like home, is central to a sense of well-being. Nathan Hall, a young environmentalist from Appalachia, left his Kentucky home to pursue bigger and better things, but kept feeling pulled back to the mountains. He came home and worked in deep underground mining, hoping to learn all that he could from this work so that he could, with integrity, challenge the status quo in his community - so that he could truly understand how mining work both fed and damaged his people. He will do his important work in his home-place.
Others are not so fortunate. David Bacon is a photographer and journalist who brings us stories about immigrants. In 2008, he wrote of "the right to stay home" or "derecho de no migrar," a human rights movement in which laborers in Mexico and other parts of the world that have been affected by globalization demand the right to be able to support themselves from work in their home communities. Immigration and migration are thorny issues, from any perspective. On the one hand, some Americans act as though those who migrate to the US, "illegally" or not, are "taking" something from them. Reading Bacon's words reminds us that, in some situations at least, those who come to our country might rather find meaningful and viable work at home.
Do you do work for which you are not compensated? How does that fit into your life? Most of us work in our families and communities to take care of one another - I would argue that this is the most important work of all, though it is woefully undervalued by many. I would not trade my years of being a mom of young children, taking care of Michael and Julie, for anything - and I would call it work - purposeful effort devoted to nurturing two little people toward becoming good family members, friends, workers, and citizens. Yes, I would call it work, and I would say that it was not always easy.
Dealing with the "grand challenge" of global climate change, as individuals, communities, and nations, is also work and it is also not easy. What is often easy, however, is denial of this challenge, a turning away from it, stuffing it into a dark seldom-visited corner of our lives. Coming to terms with the changes in our economy, natural environment, physical and emotional health, that are related to climate change and environmental degradation will be work - it will take purposeful effort, both mental and physical, to find new ways of doing things together. We must rise to this challenge for which we do not have ready answers and solutions. We must take on this work - we must be people working together.
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
~ Wendell Berry ~