Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Holy Labor

It՚s Labor Day and for some reason I have a tradition of making posts on this holiday. And I wouldn՚t want to break tradition, it՚s one of the few things we can hold onto in this chaotic world. But if it՚s an obligation, that writing it becomes work, and you are not supposed to work on labor day. So I՚m trying to write in a spirt of anti-work.

Whatever is motivating me to write, it does not feel like work, at least not the onerous kind. It՚s work but in pursuit of goals that come from within rather than from without. So I՚m not anti-work, I՚m anti-working-for-someone-else. At least for today, tomorrow I can go back to the daytime adult world, where everyone has someone to report to, even the CEOs. I՚ve been slowly and grudgingly accepting this fact of life, which most people seem to accept at an early age.

The ethics of Marxism seem to promise, not redemption from work, but redemption through work, which at least sounds more mature. To an old-school Marxist (if there are any left) labor does actually have something of the holy about it. I can even sense a spiritual logic behind it. Just as the breath (prāṇa) is holy because of its role as a connection between mind and body, labor is holy because it is a connection between mind and effective action in the world. Both represent a path towards reconciliation and reconnection of things that are split apart.

But (again according to Marxists) labor has been misdirected into alienated tasks, that is to say, despiritualized and mindless forms of action, and it is the job of the revolution to redirect it to its proper purposes.  (And yes, we all know how well that worked out). But I give Marx some credit for trying to turn labor from a curse (one of Adam's punishments in Genesis in fact) into something liberating.

So we should celebrate labor day not by lazing around a barbecue, but by laboring on what is not alienated, on something that aims at liberation.

[Realized I wrote almost the same post a year ago. Guess it really is Belabor Day.]

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