The reinvention of work: "To live well is to work well"
09-25-2011, 12:55 PM (This post was last modified: 09-25-2011 01:11 PM by starshine.)
The reinvention of work: "To live well is to work well"
Source: Boggs Center's Living for Change News(letter)
From Matthew Fox's The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time (pub. in 1995)
Book description: In The Reinvention of Work, radical priest Matthew Fox draws on a rich legacy of great mystics and philosophers and proposes a spirituality of work. As Thomas Aquinas said, "To live well is to work well," and in this bold call for the revitalization of daily work, Fox shares his vision of a world where our personal and professional lives are celebrated in harmony--a world where the self is not sacrificed for a job but is sanctified by authentic "soul work."
“Today close to one billion human beings are out of work. In the U.S. alone more people are unemployed than at any time since the Depression…Of those who are employed, some work in jobs that are inimical to the health of our species and the planet, such as tearing down rain forests, killing endangered animals, selling drugs, or making armaments.
“Some politicians, looking for a quick fix, shout that we need Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! But such simplistic slogans… avoid the deeper questions that must be asked of Work at this critical juncture in human and Earth history…
“Under the pressure of the world economic crunch that is creating a worldwide depression, the grave danger looms that we will seek only Jobs! Jobs! at any price---- and ignore the deeper questions of Work such as how, why, and for whom we do our Work.
“We dare not miss the truly radical and creative moment in which we live--- one in which we are being asked to redefine Work itself. “There have been other momentous shifts such as this in human history. Consider the industrial revolution two hundred years ago or the agricultural revolution ten thousand years ago. “Until the agricultural revolution the basic work of the human species was hunting and gathering; with agriculture it became cultivating crops and breeding animals.
“With the industrial revolution Work itself was revolutionized. It moved from farm to city, from making clothes and growing food to buying clothes and buying food. Humans changed from producers to consumers. Our models and ideals of work became factory oriented; the worker became an assistant to a machine.
“This idea was reinforced by the prevailing cosmology of Newton, namely, that our universe is a machine. Descartes reinforced his idea by teaching that our bodies and machines are machines as well. In the Newtonian era, real labor meant making things by machine or fixing them by machine. In the twentieth century, this symbol was domesticated in the automobile… War became the ultimate machine in motion, and machinery became the engine that ran our economic systems and political rhetoric…
“Today this paradigm is undergoing radical re-evaluation. The system is not working. That is how a paradigm shift begins: the established way of seeing the world no longer functions. The workmachine is running out of steam, coming to an end, even in the so-called First World. The basics of human living, including work, health care, politics, education, and religion, are increasingly beyond our grasp. And so a new era is upon us.
“We are being challenged today--- in light of the wounded Earth, the one billion unemployed adults, the billions of despairing young people, who see no guarantees of either work or jobs, and the needs of other species around us---- to redefine Work. Our times need what the Bible calls metamoia, a change of heart, a change of ways.
“Changing our ways includes changing the way we define Work, the way we compensate Work, the ways we create Work, and the way we let go of Work and learn to infuse it with play and ritual. “We should not allow ourselves to be deceived that today’s crisis in Jobs is just about Jobs; it is not. The Job crisis is a symptom of something much deeper: a crisis in our relationship to Work and the challenge put to our species today to reinvent it.
“We must learn to speak of the difference between a Job and Work. We may be forced to take a Job serving food at a fast-food place for $4.25 an hour in order to pay our bills, but Work is something else. Work comes from inside out; work is an expression of our soul, our inner being. It is unique to the individual; it is creative. Work is an expression of the Spirit at work in the world through us. Work is that which puts us in touch with others, not so much at the level of personal interaction, but at the level of service in the community.
“Work is not just about getting paid. Indeed, so much Work in our culture is not paid at all, for example, raising children, cooking meals at home, organizing youth activities, singing in the choir, repairing one’s home, cleaning up one’s neighborhood, listening to a neighbor or friend who has undergone trauma, tending a garden, planting trees, or creating rituals that heal and celebrate.
“And yet, in a fuller critique of Work, the question needs to be asked: How might these examples of good work be rewarded so that they re indeed counted in our understanding of the gross national product (GNP)?
Thinking for Ourselves
By Shea Howell
President Obama’s effort to pass a new jobs plan has opened an important conversation about what kind of economy we want. This week his plan to reduce the deficit has sparked basic questions of fairness and what kind of obligations we have to one another.
Detroit has much to offer to this national debate. As the old song says, many of us have learned that our lives are more than our work. And our work is more than our jobs.
We have lived with the loss of jobs for decades. Beginning in the 1950’s we saw the introduction of new technologies into manufacturing. Automation promised to take over much of the back--breaking work of car production and to provide new opportunities for leisure. For a brief moment unions talked of 30 hour work weeks and job sharing.
Instead, automation meant layoffs. Over the decades it became clear to all of us that high tech mass production means high unemployment. Auto plants that employed tens of thousands were able to produce the same number of cars with a few thousand people.
These changes in production were coupled with the flight of capital. Plants closed down in Michigan and reopened in Georgia, Mexico and points south. Looking for cheap labor and lax environmental controls, manufacturing industries closed shop in communities that had supported them for decades. They took their jobs and left behind decaying factories, polluted waters and spoiled land.
Many of our neighbors followed the hope of jobs, going south and west. Bumper stickers read, “Last one out of Michigan, turn out the lights.”
Those of us who remained spent years looking for the next big job producing industry. Out of a growing desperation we flattened whole communities for new high-tech auto plants. We offered tax breaks to entice employers into the state, eroding our ability to provide basic public services. We built hotels, entertainment venues, stadiums and casinos, all with the hope of reviving jobs. None of it worked. Detroit has consistently had almost double the national unemployment rate for decades.
These experiences taught some of us a hard truth. The era of high employment through mass production that built cities like Detroit is over. It is now commonplace to say that Detroit is the first post-industrial city.
For many this means a city in ruins. But for growing numbers it has meant a reimagining of urban life. More and more people began to say, “Jobs aren’t coming back.” Yet we realized there was much work to be done. In pockets around the city people began to look at how we might create lives of meaning, providing for ourselves and one another.
This spirit sparked the development of community gardens. It is fostering new forms of art and entertainment. It is creating imaginative community enterprises and small businesses committed to community development as well as personal profit.
These efforts provide the foundations of hope for a new city. Their energy and vision are why young people are seeing new possibilities in Detroit. Following passions to create, to produce and to care for one another, a new kind of economy is slowly emerging.
Detroit is teaching all of us that there is much work to be done. We can build together a new kind of economy that fosters the development of people and communities. This new economy is not based on mass production or large-scale industry. Instead it is finding the ways to support one another as we build lives following our passions while providing for our neighbors and ourselves.
We are living in the midst of a human transition as great as that from hunting and gathering to agriculture. It is a moment to explore new possibilities for how we shall live.
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