1.To work is to grow, so the Catholic Social Teaching has it, but more and more in our world we become aware that there is a broken formula: that what is growing on the soil of our labours, as a result of our work, does not honour God’s creation/cosmos (order); does not liberate, renew and bestow dignity but rather abuses, exhausts and distorts. It wreaks havoc on the wonderfully koan-ic declaration of Jesus: ‘my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
2.’Oikos’, the Greek word meaning ‘household’, is the root of the English prefix eco-, as in eco-logy and eco-nomy. Ecology & economy, each mutually dependent and co-arising, are central to our livelihoods, to the way we spend our lives, the way we make a living. They are intimately and intricately involved with justice and issues of security. Economy and ecology concern the ways we feel at home in the world.
Oftentimes, we work to keep our homes. (Why am I guided to open Matthew 6 and what is that all about, anyway in the context of how to be at home on the planet?)
3. I ask myself: by way of my work what is growing in the world? More justice, more equality, more dignity, more ways to become more alive to relationships, with human and non-human others? More light, more ease, better and more inclusive visions for the kind of world we wish to live in? Ideally, I strive for this. We live in complex times though and my answers contain a mix of both good and bad. I do not teach in a bubble; I teach in a web which itself lies in a system in a system in a system. I realise I have only so much influence. (Perhaps, then, too, my responsibility is limited? If everyone makes such a claim, then what?)
4. What would you do with your ‘one wild and precious life’ if you were motivated to work (for work is an intrinsic good) for a value/reward/compensation besides money? [Like this woman does.] Many, if not most, (especially the young) people I have this conversation with cannot imagine what this means, what it could look like. A very few become nostalgic for a simpler time before ‘This’. (I don’t invest too much time in Golden Age-rs; if it was so great, how come it didn’t survive?) Many, if not most people, find the question quixotic and quaint. Some accuse me of idealism. I’m OK with that. I keep this wonderful riposte of Satish Kumar’s in my armoury:
Look at what realists have done for us. They have led us to war and climate change, poverty on an unimaginable scale, and wholesale ecological destruction. Half of humanity goes to bed hungry because of all the realistic leaders in the world. I tell people who call me ‘unrealistic’ to show me what their realism has done. Realism is an outdated, overplayed and wholly exaggerated concept.
5. The links below extend my reflections on work begun in my recent At Least post. I’m slightly surprised by the way these articles have been drawn into my sphere (and yet, ever delighted by serendiptiy, not). Encountering the work of Guy Standing seems to have opened a whole new avenue!
- A Life Not Defined by Work by Alecia Simmonds
- On the Pleasures of Work (er, by which is meant GOOD work)
- What is a good job? by Philip Lorish
- What would happen if we just gave people money? by Andrew Flowers
- Attack Poverty at its Core. Is Universal Basic Income the answer? by Andy Stern
- 5 measures of growth that are better than GDP by Stewart Wallis
- The Age of Insecurity is not coming. It’s already here by Antony Painter