balance

We think too much and that’s a major downside of being human; we think too much about how we got here, what we are here for and how we can get a Range Rover Sport like Richard’s next door. We save up for the good times, as if we can be sure the good times will come; we even do this with our most precious asset, our lives. If we work hard and squirrel away a bit of extra cash we can have a great time when the kids have grown up and left…when we retire.

No other beast does this; even the squirrel will eat his nuts now if he is hungry! Have you ever watched the family dog eating and compared it to human behaviour?

When confronted with a plate of food or a meal, your average human will save the tastiest morsels for last, in order to savour them later; we even have a sweet dish as a treat after we’ve eaten all of the other food;

 if you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding!

Now look at Fido in the corner with his dish of dried biscuits and processed, canned “meat” made from ground up animal carcasses no longer fit for human consumption. Ok he eats it, because he doesn’t know if there will ever be any more food; but drop a bit of steak fat on the floor or in his dish and he will immediately eat it first before tackling the other less attractive options…why?

Because he doesn’t “know” that there will ever be more food, he can’t project ahead like we can, he doesn’t know there’s another 23 tins in the cupboard and even if he did, he doesn’t know how to use a tin opener, so he saves the best for…FIRST!

Unfortunately, the crap we’ve been taught at school, heard dropped into news casts on telly for our whole life and been led to accept as fact by all of the other forms of indoctrination we’ve been surreptitiously exposed to; you know the one about 3 score years and 10? Well they are all speculation. It turns out that we know just about as much as Fido when it comes to the future, but we’ve been led to believe that we are superior in this respect and that we can safely save up the good times for later, which conveniently leaves us a lot of time now…that we could spend in wage slavery to keep the system going.

Every aspect of modern, work a day life is geared to oiling the wheels of the capitalist system. Pay interest on a mortgage (death pledge for those not familiar with the French language) for your whole life so you can live comfortably with no worries when you are old. Don’t get too infirm though or your kids will have to sell the house you diligently paid for all those years to pay for someone to wipe your arse and spoon feed you canned soup. Buy a new car, get a bigger telly, go to the Maldives next summer, send the kids to public school blah blah blah; all geared up to keep the big pyramid scheme going.

In the brilliant “the Moon and the Sledgehammer” Mr Page expresses genuine astonishment that modern folk travel miles and miles to an office, spend all day there and then travel miles and miles back again in the evening. He says “they hardly spend any time at home” in a perplexed tone.

For the Page family, different as they were, the thought of work/life balance didn’t enter their heads at any point. I accept that their lifestyle wasn’t common for the times and location they lived in, but it wasn’t too far removed from the pastoral idyll that existed before the reforming puritans started to bash their ideas into the general populace of Great Britain and not too far removed from the life many of us dream of, give or take a gun or two and maybe some of the closer “family” relationships.

I was once guilty of spouting crap about work/life balance to people who were my consultancy clients, but I was on autopilot and not really engaged with this idea that we need to find balance between work and life. I was living one game and teaching another. With the wisdom of a lot of hindsight, reading and observation I now find it hard not to smirk when confronted with this crazy idea; yet another construct of capitalist society. The whole idea is based on a beaten acceptance that work is essential but not enjoyable and that somehow its all right to give ourselves little rewards for putting up with the drudgery of work all week. A nice little side effect of this thinking creates what scientists call a feedback loop; and it’s a lovely little bonus for the Capitalists. We leave the office and head straight to the booze aisle in Tesco, get ourselves a bigger telly, more satellite channels and more unhealthy takeaway food. Before long we are addicted to our lifestyle; days are spent moaning beside the water cooler and eyeing up Sandra from accounts and evenings are a blur of throwing frozen mush at the kids, shouting at them to get to bed, followed by a hazy mirage of tikka masala, cab sauvignon, masterchef and acid reflux.

If we make unrewarding, un-enjoyable work our life then I am sure we need to find some form of escape from time to time, but this model seems to lead to many less than enjoyable and less than healthy escapes in order to “balance” the work/life equation, leading in a lot of cases to heart damaging stress, depression, alcoholism, drug dependency, child neglect, obesity, partner abuse, divorce and even suicide in ever increasing numbers of the general population; sometimes referred to as the “work force”… god help us!

We’ve been so deeply indoctrinated into the ways of the capitalist system that we can’t see another way. But faced with another 20 or 30 years of the above wouldn’t it be more attractive to turn this craziness on its head and start to think about life/work rather than work/life. Making our life our work is much easier than most people think; it just depends on how much we really want it. Making our living from things we want to do anyway, things we would do for free if it came to it is all about just starting.

Thinking about the processes required to change our lives around is hard sometimes; there seem to be too many barriers, too many hoops to jump through, but all of these are fixable and fixable much more quickly than we like to believe sometimes.

There is no work/life balance to be had. We need to make our life our work and enjoy every minute. We need to live now, because like Fido, we just don’t know if tomorrow is coming.

Work and life have never been separate in reality; in the distant past people even took their names from the work they did; true artisan crafts that people enjoyed and were real experts in.

Of course the Nobility didn’t like this state of affairs and introduced rules that made it impossible for these experts to trade unless they belonged to a guild, and then price fixing came in and then drudgery and wage slavery. True artisans were burned at the stake as witches and then we ended up here in 2012…fucked up, stressed, untrusting of our neighbours etc etc.

In the past, the Smith didn’t get up in the morning to listen to some fuckwit spouting boardroom talk about scoping out synergies, blue-sky thinking or getting outside the box; he got in his box and made horse shoes for a while. He did deals with the local people, based on friendship, mutual back scratching and peaceful community living as did the Tailors, Bakers, Butchers, Wainwrights, Fletchers, and Millers and they thrived in a semi-idle state with no stresses or pressure to be better than anyone else.

We don’t have to wear horse hair shirts, boycott Starbucks or sell the telly to achieve a better, more relaxed, more community focussed, more thoughtful, safer and child friendly society where we spend all day doing what the hell we want to do; we just have to start doing it… there is no other way…the clock is ticking…

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