I Have Shit To Do
We’ve all been through some wild times over this last year. Some worse than others. Anxiety, although having been on a collective rise for years, has hit some mountainous peaks. How do we deal with it all? Well, an easier question to answer is how do I deal. Aside from routine exercise, I stay busy with making stuff, whether it be writing, music, or the podcast. All of these I thrust myself into for some stabilization even if the writing, music, or podcast themes are themselves chaotic. Oh yeah, I also have a job and am taking college courses. The “side projects” can be understood as different forms of therapy, not simply cool things to talk about. Granted, they are cool. I saw an old interview with Bowie recently where he mentioned that making art isn’t always fun, sometimes it’s obsessive like it must come out, and once you’re done, that longing reoccurs that pushes you into the next creation. I empathize, Starman. Nonetheless, having people that you love in your life in the midst of the madness, life tends to be even more intensified. What are your quirks? What are theirs? Can they handle yours? Can YOU even handle your quirks? Can you handle theirs? Can THEY handle theirs? Hmm, life seems, oh, I don’t know, fuggin’ hard.
These scenarios have been unfolding for millennia and yet here we are, existing NOW, getting older and grayer, and one can only hope that during this process of living, we are getting wiser. Are we getting wiser, though?
“Are you wise, bro?”
Society, if you haven’t noticed, isn’t set up to induce this sort of questioning. Not just the wisdom question but others. We can’t weigh wisdom of course, but if we could, I’d be Googling how much Noam Chomsky and the Dali Lama weigh and go from there. Our society is undoubtedly built to just keep us running and running and running until we give up and forget why we’re running or where we’re going. Where are we running to? This idea isn’t a surprise to many of us, having held these discussions for years as younger adults, sounding pretentious much of the time, not fully understanding the sacrifices to come, and now we find ourselves in it. We’re truly in it. And most of us can’t stand the situation. I think we’re totally justified in not being able to stand it. It relatively blows. Those of us, or them, that actually “make it” in this world, those that make plenty of money or have monetized what they love, or those that ‘don’t mind’ their subsequent career, isn’t it fitting how so many end up turning against the majority and telling everyone else that “you hate the system because you haven’t made it. Ever considered that maybe you’re just lazy?” Even with that observation, it’s worth noting that statistics show that the wealthy aren’t actually happy either, and I’ll recommend a book called Civilized to Death by Chris Ryan if you want to go further.
Work and success are complex subjects. For one, society isn’t set up for most of us to be successful, hints monopolies and rising inequality, low-paying jobs, no worker rights, voter suppression, etc.,—all of which are experiences that imbitter people who aren’t “winning”. Also, we can consider that not everyone desires to own their own business or call their own shots, and some ‘don’t mind working all the time’, bringing us back to the complexity of us humans, so I won’t spend this chat getting too far into the weeds. This is more of a process of questioning where we’re at without being incredibly harsh on ourselves. I’ve been reading a book called How To Fight by Thich Nhat Hanh, which I originally bought as a gift, but as time passed, I ended up keeping it and it turned out to be a huge gift…to myself. Thanks, Me. The book has allowed me to rediscover some psychology and philosophy that I’ve studied in the past, yet plenty of it I’ve never fully considered. What’s that you say, Thich? Be gentle with ourselves? Remember that we were once babies, and then children, blossoming into raging, moody, horny teens, and in the midst of all this, we experienced emotional pain and trauma that still lingers into adulthood that needs to be dealt with? And turns out that we all went through these processes in some form or fashion, give or take some? I’d honestly forgotten to recognize this in myself, like many do, even if we have made an effort to do so with others. Turns out that I’m also not as good at communicating my emotions as I thought, either?
“Duh.” – Thich
Like I said earlier and like we all already know, our society isn’t invested in us recognizing or questioning these things. That is until they’re monetized and then we all better buy the shit that makes us speedily “recover” so that we can get back to trudging through our workday. And look, I’ve fought and continue to fight against these ‘work, work, work, exhaust yourself so that you’re barely sane enough to keep work, work, working.’ This is not a slight or disdain for work, either. I’ve been working since tenth grade. You know, not far behind the legal age to work a child in America. (Pay your taxes you fourteen-year-old POS.) I tend to work like a bee, sorta, I just typically spend a majority of that energy and time doing things that I want to do. THE HORROR. THE NERVE. People get angry at this, believe it or not. Offended at the thought sometimes, as if I should be doing other things with my time. I understand that you can become self-indulgent or worse, so it’s tricky. The most bizarre part is if I was paid for all the time and investment that I’ve poured into and remain pouring into endeavors that give my life purpose, I’d have the money and, therefore, recognition that our society deems as a relatively “successful career”. To be obsessed with endeavors that aren’t monetized, even though they fill your soulful purpose of existence, they remain at times extremely difficult to justify until they actually bring you money, which can then be justified as “real work”.
You hear that, you bum?
So what is work? What is “real work”? We need money to survive. We need to eat, drink, get from A to B, shower, and sleep under a roof. Maybe there are Funyuns involved. Parents can undoubtedly extend this list and all these necessities need funds. That mean-green. And wouldn’t it be best if we monetize and then direct this energy for work and the desire to ‘get shit done’ into the realm of things that we love to do? It seems practical to do so, otherwise, we spend most of our time doing work we don’t actually want to do so that we can pay to, you know, stay alive. Well my friends, especially my older friends, we’re in it. Many of you with children to raise. If we were to give the praise and wages to the garbage workers that they damn well deserve in this society, the same as the grocery clerks, both jobs the pandemic has revealed that we have trouble functioning without, could you love that work too? Isn’t a vital job worthy of praise and good wages? How about going a bit deeper and asking, what is a wage? How much is your life worth per hour, every single week? They used to ask these questions even into the late 19th century, and citizens went as far as to call wage labor “slave wages.” We were much more radical then.
What if we ask, Is life simply work? What is work actually? Sit with the questions. Or stand, I don’t care.
Asking these questions is vital for our mental health, subsequently our physical health, and they’re big ol’ necessary questions. It isn’t about feeling bad and angry at ourselves, I recognize this already in most people. Accepting responsibility for our lives isn’t the same as being ruthless about our terrible or questionable decisions, or angry for eternity for having been misled by your parents or your aunties, and stewing in these sorts of realizations/projections can induce shell-shock that might keep us from taking any steps forward to reassess things. These are current human struggles in this current paradigm of life. They also require, seemingly, going against what pretty much everything around you is telling you to do, and has always guided us to do. Consume, work until you hurt bad (not good), buy the cheapest disposable shit, and accept that “it’s just how it is.” Swimming against the current isn’t easy and often it ain’t fun, and it will consume the energy we have leftover from the daily struggle of swimming with the current so that we can eat. It’s a blessing to talk about these struggles and reassess your situations with people who are serious about doing the same, so maybe try and find these people and work together. Be honest, go in-depth, and get vulnerable. Wear pants unless deliberately asked not to, and if asked then throw them to the wind! Might’ve lost you there. This entire piece isn’t about finding ways to avoid struggle or duty, it’s about, and I’ll repeat how I’ve heard it said before, it’s about asking what you want to suffer for. What are the sacrifices you’re willing to make and live with and live without? This inevitably leads me to the questions, “is it best to monetize your art or purpose in the end?” and also, “What’s driving me to feel like I need to Get Shit Done in the first place?”
Well, as for the former question, I don’t know, I haven’t gotten to experience substantial royalties for my “side projects” thus far, so that’s for another time. I do know that if you have a restaurant you don’t even question whether it’s OK to monetize your coffee, or lasagna, or salads, or BBQ, so why question the other? Some creators don’t recommend mixing money and creativity. I understand the downside, I’ve simply never experienced it in action. On the latter question, what drives us to do what we feel we need to do? Could it be the fear of death? Attaining status? To experience the feeling of being alive? Novelty? Capitalism and progress?
Can we ask ourselves if the world wants or needs what we’re trying to give? Well, we can only know by trying or doing the work. We can try with the intention of giving to ourselves and to others, and the process itself might be exactly what you or I needed, whether the money comes or it doesn’t. Either way, I think, we will have done some “real work” at the end of the day.