Saturday, January 18, 2014

Love is a Power

Re: "In the Name of Love"

Oooo! That got under my skin!

The author is picking on a tenet that I hold dear so that accounts for my emotional reaction.

But I find the thinking here fundamentally flawed, and, ironically, it seems flawed precisely because it displays just the same privilege-bias that the author decries!

The author seems to be saying that only privileged people get to choose their work, that if you are poor or otherwise unprivileged you are doomed to work at unlovable jobs and never have freedom or dignity.

That is just wrong and it's an example of the very bias the author is complaining about.

Now I am not saying that there are no exploitive jobs.  Obviously, there are people who will exploit you and your labor if they can.  Some of them are that way because they are jerks, others are simply misguided.

What I am saying is much deeper and more "radical" than that.  I'm telling you that even a prisoner on a chain gang, or the people of N. Korea, can have dignity and work with love and enjoyment.  It's not always easy, but to deny this plain and universal fact is to head down a path denigrating to the inherent humanity of the very workers that this article is (sort of) championing.

Dignity and freedom are not external "things" that can be granted or taken away by someone else.  They are intrinsic Universals that are always available to every human being regardless of their external circumstances.

Dignity and freedom come from inside you.  You cannot be separated from them because they are aspects of your own deeper nature.

It is possible to forget this, to put your power outside of yourself, to give it to your "boss" or "the machine", and to succumb to the illusion that you are exploited and mistreated by powers beyond your control.

But this is not a real thing, and always in the end dignity and freedom re-assert themselves.  No physical condition can trump the very real inner power of dignity and freedom.

To insist that "the unprivileged" are not able to "do what they love and love what they do" is to deny their own humanity and power.  Every human has the ability to choose freedom and dignity. (In a sense that is what it means to be human.)

Certainly external circumstances can ease or hinder your ability to reach the inner wellspring, and that is the motivation to improve working conditions (globally, for everyone.)

There is very real need for improvements in working conditions in many many places all over the world.  But the idea that it is important to find love, happiness, dignity and freedom in your labor is NOT in conflict with this, in fact it is a primary reason for insisting on good working conditions!

We must work.  As Krishna told Arjuna we cannot help but act.  Living is action (karma) and we must take care that our actions are guided by wisdom and done well.

The idea that you can and should "do what you love and love what you do" arose as a counter to the misguided idea that work is something you hate that you do just to get the money to pay your bills and keep the lights on and the pantry stocked.  To confuse the basic concept with a sort of bromide for the blind egos of a privileged elite is a terrible mistake.

Let me wrap up by dissecting a specific passage from the article:
Superficially, DWYL is an uplifting piece of advice, urging us to ponder what it is we most enjoy doing and then turn that activity into a wage-generating enterprise. But why should our pleasure be for profit? And who is the audience for this dictum?
Where to begin?  So worng. Wow.

I'll take it in reverse order:
And who is the audience for this dictum?
Everybody.  The intended audience is all of humanity everywhere.  The great promise of technology is not in enriching Zuckerbergs and Jobses but in getting out from under the burdens of our past and creating a world where everyone has the best opportunity to express their inner dignity and freedom and love daily, all the time, not excluding their working hours.

But why should our pleasure be for profit?
The premise is wrong.  "Monetizing" your leisure is not what "do what you love, love what you do" means.

Love and labor are much deeper things than pleasure and profit.

We must work.  Society has benefited us and we are obliged by love and duty to give back, to contribute from ourselves to our fellow humans, to carry out our responsibilities and keep things going and getting better and better for the next generations (our posterity.)

To call the satisfaction and gratitude that is engendered by performing your work well and with love and dignity merely "pleasure" is to cheapen it.

And to work merely for profit is to fall into a kind of hell.  "He who desires the fruits of his labor is a miser." (Krishna again.)  Loving work done well is its own reward.  That it grants the means to live is one of the aspects of working for love that makes it so miraculous and wonderful.

Sweeping up, washing dishes, picking fruit, collecting garbage, none of these are inherently undignified, none of them are beyond the possibility of being done with love and enjoyment, done for the benefit of the people around us whom we love and care about.  I know from experience that this is true.

It is terribly prejudiced to insist that someone working a "menial" job cannot experience love and deep satisfaction from their work.

Again, I am not denying that there are exploitive jobs in the world. Obviously there are.  But I insist that this is counter to the spirit of DWYL/LWYD.  It is vitally important to mold our technology and economy so that working conditions allow for and even foster wholesome labor, done freely with dignity and love.
Superficially, DWYL is an uplifting piece of advice, urging us to ponder what it is we most enjoy doing and then turn that activity into a wage-generating enterprise.
No. it is not a "piece of advice".  It is a rallying cry in the face of all injustice and suffering and exploitation in the world and it challenges us to remember, to never forget, that life is labor is love.

Search yourself: find not what you "most enjoy" (superficial sensory gratification), but what gives you the deepest and most moving and important work (karma, action) that you can do to improve the world and express your own deep inner being.

This is something that anyone can do, at any time, in any circumstance.  It is a privilege that everyone has and it can never be taken away.

Love is a power.

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