It is time for us to put an end to the forty hour work week. It’s over. Long since. It has had its day, it has had its say. It has, in fact, informed us with all manner of make-believe — no simple task in a world built upon a foundation of delusion so labyrinthine in its construct it has had to create tailor-made medications for its members just to keep them believing the path they're on may actually lead them somewhere.
Do not get me wrong. This is not a cry against work itself, only the way in which it has come to be experienced. We are a long, long way off from the puritan ethics that birthed it — the insatiable hunger for innovation and progress that worked children and elderly alike to death within its grimy walls; that dream of the future that clambered out across the face of the agrarian world in a march of mechanization so furious it gathered all but the most remote into its trembling, entitled hands.
It has been centuries. We have achieved the growth. More than. The growth is now, in fact, terminal, yet here we are, nearly all of us, caught still in the wake of this strange and soured dream, so swept up within it that we are denied the ability to even fully comprehend it. Yet we know. Each one of us knows. Intuitively. This is not how it’s supposed to be.
To state it out loud, however, is an entirely different matter. The majority of the modern world still balks at such a suggestion, so counter does it run to everything we’ve been born into, everything we’ve been bred to know. So disconnected are we from our own intuition, so filled with the old indoctrination of this dysfunctional dream that we can’t even admit to ourselves how thoroughly it is killing us.
Yet there have been harbingers, those in the past who, possessed of enough vision, dared to light a path in the dark with the firebrand as they so grasped it. In 1970, at the age of seventy-five, Buckminster Fuller — arguably one of the greatest minds of the past century — had this to say:
“We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”
Yet Mr. Fuller was known for working nearly non-stop. Why? Because he was driven by an entirely different force altogether — one from which the majority of the current world is disastrously separated: passion. If there were but one thing to compose the forty hour work week of, would this not be it? If there were one thing most likely to dictate a forty hour work week, would this not, in fact, be that one thing? Forty, fifty, even hundred hour work weeks would spring naturally from those individuals whose actions arose out of this place of true passion, so hot is the flame that burns at its centre.
In order for this to happen, however, there would have to be included an essential element: freedom. We must possess the freedom, and thus the time, to explore and uncover the inherent roles that call to us in this life, interwoven within our personalities as they are. Nowhere in the modern world does this appear currently feasible. There is hope, possibly, in the fault lines that have shaken the foundations of the financial system in the last few years; there are hints, maybe, in the Netherlands and some of the other more progressive countries, where certain policies have already shortened the work week and may in fact be headed in the direction of a basic income for all. And why not? Why not a monetary recompense rewarded all of us for the simple trauma of being born into a family of humans so un-evolved in its consciousness it is steadily spelling out its own extinction; for the undeniable hardships of existence here within every level of that system? Would this not be the very start of ascending out of that murk?
Yet this is an entirely new can of worms. I can hear the cries already, the great socio-economic gears beginning to grind within the mind of every person reading this. Do not expect me to table an entirely new system here in this blog. I am a writer, not an economist. At the same time, is it not of the utmost importance for each citizen of the earth — that has the capacity and the means to do so — to question the very maze that informs the path of their respective lives? Each from their own unique understanding? Do we not need to have a conversation about this, you and I, outside of the ridiculous and empty rhetoric that the political arena has irretrievably degenerated into?
What I can tell you, from my limited perspective, from my personal experience in the little corner of the world I’m in is this: it’s fear. We think it’s oil that keeps this whole thing running, that keeps the war machine turning, that keeps the blood of the young pumping onto the floor of the old earth, but it’s not. It’s fear. And there is no greater death to our spirit than fear. It’s fear that keeps us toiling the way we do — fear of not having enough to survive, fear of losing everything we’ve worked so hard for, fear of others doing ‘better’, fear of failing, fear of taking risks, fear, even, of our very own feeling of inferiority. All of it, fear.
And of course. Of course. We’re not stupid. We know where we are, what we need to do. No one is going to help us up, no one is going to provide us the means to move that extra mile for free, or take us there themselves. The kindness of our race extends only so far, and is, more often than not, an investment dependent on its respective return. And compassion? It is a virtue so rare that people blow dust off of ancient tomes just in the hopes of finding some hint of its meaning therein.
It is a sad, sad state we are in, our experience of living. It is a ghastly insanity, not really a ‘living’ at all, but a dying. The incessant, regimented schedule it imposes — day in, day out, the same thing — there is no greater death than this. Two weeks vacation a year? Year after year after year… There could be nothing more opposite the natural rhythm of life than this, the ebb and flow, the intrinsic lulls and highs, furies and rests that come with the organic experience of life. The forty hour work week is our experience of dying. It is the embodiment of all the terrible fear at the heart of this manufactured life set in motion, given a mind with which to command it, arms with which to feed it, endless arbitration with which to justify its existence. It is a template so rigid in its framework it cannot possibly fit the lay of the land. This is how deluded we are, how separated, how lost.
To be sure, there is a natural struggle against it that arises in youth. Many of the young parlay themselves for a time, seeing clearly the situation as it is, yet so strong is the pull that it draws nearly all of those who live and work within it into a slow calcification of the spirit eventually. Around the age of forty it really begins to set in, locking us down under the threat of mortality, under the need to guarantee the most basic of comforts for ourselves and our kin as we pass into the window of old age. Yet the devastating irony therein is, as we come ever closer to death, we realize the futility of it all — our bodies broken by the worship of money, our spirits stripped of their vigour, their ardour, their holiness by the unrelenting, unfeeling process of life as we have allowed it to be visited upon us.
It is time to end this. Do not let the regimented system of mankind — that great cancer at the heart of the organic world — take you. There must not be an acceptance of this, theremust be an unrelenting presence of pleasure brought into the flesh you find yourself within, and in the bone that animates it; there must be an unrequited and continuous gratitude for life itself practiced into being, built into the pillar that shines at the centre of the self. Do not allow the calcification of the world to cover its light! Do not roll over to the mass template the manufactured map would stamp you with, well into forty, fifty, ninety! Forget the so-called peers of that world. They would have you bend before the master of their fear, their denial, their cancer as it slowly grows in the darkness of the stone they’ve allowed to crawl over their skin and cover their light. Bid them not even a thought. Cry, instead, to engender the happiness of being alive in yourself, and lighten the life that’s seated in the very small of that self until it grows so strong and so strange that you are truly an individual, truly an expression of that which can no other way be expressed; truly a light that cannot be contained, that arouses and enlivens the growth of all you come into contact with, all who fall under the warmth of your celebratory spirit, your mischievous eye, your kind and loving way of living that says: I can crack the stone that sours you, I can be the light that devours your darkness, I can set you free, if you but let me; then, too, will you know what it means to shine.