Article 25

Life’s Work and the Working Life

In Uncategorized on 12/22/2012 at 1:22 pm

All Unemployed

And also the medication

By Steven Paul Lansky


We are all unemployed. We all need jobs. We are all employed. We all need a break. There is not enough time in the week to do all that we need/want to do. It is in the need/want that it gets tricky.

What is it to be unemployed? We say we need a job, but isn’t it true that we really are saying we need an income? We need money. We need to learn to support ourselves. When we get education, we are not seeking knowledge. We seek the means to an end. We seek a way to find a job so that we can support ourselves. Is this so difficult?

What are we really saying? Or asking? Where can we find meaningful activity that will provide for us and our loved ones? Is this really so difficult?

I think there are some ethical considerations here. We do not want to steal to gain our way. We do not want to be given the way. We want to participate. We seek an arrangement where we are ethically worthwhile, valued for what we do as much as for who we are. But, let us not be naïve, work is hard, it is a challenge. If we enjoyed it all the time, then we would not call it “work.” What if we have some additional challenge? Then, of course, we want a helping hand. This is where social theory gets involved. We want to protect those with special needs because we don’t know the future. Someday, it might be revealed among us that the least of us is truly the greatest. We have faith that, in charity, we preserve ourselves.

So, I encourage those of you who cannot “find work,” to do meaningful action. Take the time to listen to someone today. Stand still and observe a tree for a minute or two. A tree does not ask to become firewood, a two-by-four, or paper. Yet, a tree provides oxygen, shade and seeds to make more trees. Let us in our work find something to do that is non-violent. Let us see ourselves each as healers. Let us put our shoulders into work that makes the world a better place, and be in discussion with our fellow man and woman about how to do that. Let us not automate or technologize without clarity of the common good. Let us know that we will not always agree, but agree to be agreeable in how we determine what we agree upon.

We live in a surplus economy. There are so many of the things we used to want, but not enough of the things we want now. This constantly reinventing generates a climate of early obsolescence and waste. Let us learn more about re-use; let reification be part of our goal.

When I was young, I did not want to be a dishwasher at a bakery. I wanted to be a writer. No one would buy what I was writing. I was lousy at marketing my work. I wanted to write, but I didn’t know how to engage the larger community. Working at unskilled labor seemed beneath me. I was encouraged when I asked about spiritual knowledge. Teachers told me to sit. I hitchhiked, I used drugs and I drank alcohol. I struggled socially. I did not listen to others but rather told rambling stories and ached to share my vision. When I was frustrated, I argued and fought. I stole, and shamed myself in the eyes of my closest friends and family.

But family stayed behind me and insisted I get professional treatment. In that, the seeds were planted for many new possibilities. I discovered a talent for making visual art as well as writing and playing music. I could not make a living at these activities, but I could practice them with complete devotion, no matter what. When I was in treatment, I learned to sit. Much of the time I spent being creative required long periods of uninterrupted sitting. Not just when I was in the act of being creative, actually generating new product, but also just sitting, essentially doing nothing. Remember the lilies of the field? Be like them, and toil not. I attempted to quote scripture. Was I lazy? I think I am a lazy bum and I am not a lazy bum. This is the best I can do. I became a janitor and wrote poetry, painted and drew, played music and let my industry gradually grow. With time, there were people who admired my work enough to exchange money or goods for my time working in the arts. I was not an overnight success.

I came into the world provided for by my family. When my family rejected me because of my disagreeable behavior, I found support from the larger community, both public and private. The public system gave me training, meaningful instruction, and I learned to sit and become more agreeable. I found I had to take my medication. For me, this is difficult. In our society, if someone has high blood pressure or diabetes or god forbid some form of cancer, this individual is not shunned. He or she is given medication, people offer to pray for him or her, and hopefully he or she survives and when able keeps working. With an emotional or mental illness, one is not sure if medication will help. I was no exception.

My family, my friends, all wanted me to succeed without medication. Even my doctor wanted me to succeed without medication. In the end it was agreed that a small dose of an antipsychotic is necessary for me to function in the world.

This upset my plans. I cannot enjoy physical activity, such as sports (specifically bicycling) at the level I grew up with. I get too tired and cannot function if I over-exercise. Thankfully I found ways to exercise that were not so exhausting. I have worn out many shoes from walking. I coped with headaches and found that by constantly consulting medical and spiritual advisors, I could even reduce the frequency and severity of the headaches. I also gained weight from my medication. Gradually I am learning about this.

After I began to take medication and stopped abusing substances, abusing my friends, and abusing my family, they came back to my side. I learned to love and be loved. I continue to learn everyday how to be of use.

Is a job a right? Is a job a privilege? I will end with these questions and write again to comment on them.


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