27 May 2004

Man Does My Work Ethic Blow

Maxfield Parrish: Little Sugar River at Noon Posted by Hello


After a few days of sun, Seattle has returned to being the soggy hellhole more characteristic of its long–standing reputation. I have a "free" day today, stolen time as it were, and I would've liked to go for a bike ride, but it doesn't look like the weather is going to accommodate me. No amount of either shaking my fist or waving a chicken leg at the sky seems to have any effect. I've included Maxfield Parrish's Little Sugar River at Noon above so that I can have a reminder of what hot and dry looks like.

This whole day of nothing to do comes between the end of my job at the litigation support firm and the beginning of another writing contract with Smashing Ideas. I've worked for them before, once on a B–to–B sales manual for an interactive television product, and just last month again for a pitch that they were working on for a new kid's show for Nickelodeon's Nick Jr network. This time the client is America Online, and the job has to do with creating HTML emails. That's about all I know about it so far. I'll find out more tomorrow morning. I'm building up a pretty good client list this year, so my resume is getting to be more and more handsome as time goes on. It's nice to have nationally recognized names like Shockwave, AOL, and Nickelodeon on it. It makes me look like I know what the hell I'm doing.

Mmmmm. Slack. Posted by Hello

Teresa and I were talking about work ethic before she left this morning. I was explaining to her that making a living – meaning doing some sort of job for income in order to pay the bills – has always felt like punishment to me. I'm not saying that everyone loves to have a day job. I'm sure that nearly every wage slave in the US would rather being jet skiing or sitting at home watching Springer than working as a file clerk at an insurance company. On the other hand, the vast majority of wage slaves feel beholden to their jobs and the life that it provides, would fight to save them, and would be utterly lost if they got fired. Also, many people feel that there's honor in making a living, regardless of what you're doing. The point is bringing home the bacon. I believe that's what the Protestant work ethic is. I, on the other hand, have never developed that. I think it has to do with the fact that from the time I was fifteen on, my friends were working because the wanted to. I had to work or it seemed I would perish. My friends were using their incomes to buy cars and stereos. The only thing I could do with the income that I received from doing work that I hated was pay rent and buy groceries. I never got the chance to experience income as freedom. I'm not whining about it. I just think that it has been a detriment to my work ethic my entire life. I've never enjoyed the simple fact that I had an income. Maybe that's why my work ethic – when it comes to simply making a living – is terrible. However, my work ethic concerning my writing or school work is better than most.

I had a dream last week that Grampa Teachout was shouting at me, telling me that I was soft and lazy and didn't know the meaning of the word "work". I've felt very guilty recently about wanting to leave my litigation support job. The worst thing about it is that it is boring, which is a small complaint when you compare it to what a lot of people have to do to eat. I had it pretty good. On the other hand, I was racking up a whole lot of experience in a field I really never wanted to be in.

Maybe I am spoiled in more ways than one. Maybe the fact that I have a talent that garners me $75 an hour distorts my perceptions of honest work to the point that all I want is the easiest money that I can get with the least effort and turn up my nose at everything else. I don't know if there is a salient point that's going to emerge here. I just know that in general my relationship with money and income has been pretty screwed up my whole life, and I don't think it's just for the reasons that I always thought it was, like growing up in a low–income family. Dad has a really good work ethic and has never been on unemployment, so I know it's not because of his example. Maybe it's because I got into broadcasting too early and made way too much money by doing almost nothing, and that completely skewed my perception of what honest wages are.

I just downloaded a copy of Alan Watts Teaches Meditation from Audible.com. I've listened to it before, but this time around more if it seems to be "sticking" to my memory. What struck me most during my last listening was how he explained the world of symbols was not the real world. For example, reality is not what we say about it with word–symbols. He points to the fact that thoughts themselves are symbols, and if you're constantly thinking (like I am), you never get the opportunity to leave that construct of symbology and see the world as it truly is. I know that money is highly if not entirely symbolic. Its value is certainly only consentual. Money itself is practically virtual. I'm starting to feel that if I could just stop clinging to that symbol, I could get at what the real issue is behind my money "problems".

I'm off to the new downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library this morning. It just opened Monday, and it has been getting a lot of press. I was surprised to see it written up in the New Yorker. I guess its opening was the architectural event of the month. I'm not crazy about the design. To me it looks like Picasso's bird cage. Apparently it is designed in such a way that collections don't have to be broken up. What that means in terms of real, physical space I'll only understand when I see it. To me it only seems like a very large, very expensive, very pretentious bum–magnet. The old public library was mostly a gathering place for transients and was therefore redolent with an indelible eau de shite. I can't imagine that this new place is going to smell any different unless they have fruit–flavored urinal cake hanging on a rope from the end of every shelf.

I've probably prattled on enough. Thanks for listening and give my best to Marie.

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