Why do we work too hard?

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With no jaguar chasing us? Why do we work too hard?

Americans work harder than anyone else in the industrial world.

We take less vacation time, we retire later. We don’t know how to take a break. We keep trying to work even when we’re sick or recovering from cancer or heart surgery. We want to get back to work.

I admit that I am part of this group who work too hard, and so I like to think about why I do it. Who am I trying to impress? Who is chasing me?

I am actually not impressing anyone with my hard work. I am keeping myself indoors, and I’m able to help my kids a bit, but not dazzling the universe.

I like to work but what I am running away from is the idea of nothingness. The world was made in seven days according to the Bible. But in the beginning the world was without form and void. We are running away from that formless void. We want to make sure that we make our stamp on the world.

There are three kinds of immortality: Having offspring who will carry on your name and your story. Believing in actual eternal life in the Biblical sense of the world and creating something that will be remembered. Mozart is immortal. T.S. Eliot is immortal.

Are we running away from the void toward immortality so that we can be our own gods?
Clearly not. Many of the people who are working all the time aren’t creative types at all. No, I think Americans work constantly for a variety of different reasons.

Some of us work because we want to make sure that we do some sort of creative work that survives us.
Some of us work all the time because we have nothing else to do. Some of work to avoid our families. Some of us work all the time because we are afraid of dying.

Working six or seven days a week just isn’t healthy, but many of us do it because we can.

If we relaxed, we might have to think, we might have to talk to each other. Even on vacation, some of us spend all time doing things: Snorkelling, scuba diving, hiking, biking, going off to see various animals, birds or ruins. In an ideal world, part of any vacation would be spent simply walking around with our loved ones, sitting and talking with them, finding out what they’re thinking, what matters to your loved ones.

Future Kate will spend more time sleeping, more time in the hammock. More time reading. More time doing nothing. More time listening to music and eating watermelon. More time walking the dog. More time writing notes to Mark. More time doing yoga, which should be easy as I spend almost no time doing yoga right now.

We dream of a life of ease, but we won’t take one moment to breathe. We like our dreams just where we want them. Like God out of reach by just a finger.

Published in: on September 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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