why work?

Struggling lately (and by lately, I'm old enough to mean something on the order of years) with the motivation to work. Work by its typical definition, the paid, daily toil you do for an employer or client, has always been a bit fraught. But "work" can also mean "oeuvre", "raison d'etre", and I'm sure other words given philsophical weight by virtue of being French.

I've been struggling with work in all those senses. It's not just that work politics suck, that capitalism is meaningless, or that my career ended up being dull. Instead I struggle with the basic motivation to create something for other people.

Why, ultimately, should I do it? It seems money alone is not enough to motivate me, and certainly not enough to make me happy. But should there be some work that I do for internal reasons, or even purely for the joy of doing it?

Does that mean that, say, aimless, long bike rides could be said to be work? Could wild diatribes strewn with metaphors be considered a work project, even if they're lost in the still after their last reverberation? Can a simple conversation, divorced from any conscious transactional goal, be called toil?

When are "work" and "leisure" at odds? Does the notion of a "calling" imply that they can sometimes be synonyms? Does "work" necessarily imply a task that sustains my standard of living somehow? Or can "work" be a flight of fancy, so long as I work up a sweat? Does work have to be "good" or "bad", or can it be so singular it cannot be used to rank-order the humans that produced it?

Weighty questions as I sip my coffee every morning. And I don't know the answers. I do know, though, that I miss the feeling of absorbtion I used to call "working". I miss the way I used my brain when I scribbled over math problems in all-night marathons. I even somewhat miss the frustration and obsession that goes along with trying to get your mind to turn some unseen, unaccustomed corner.

I do not miss the anxiety, or the judgement, however. And I think, perhaps, that it's my association between the two - creation and hierarchy, passion and judgement - that's lost me my motivation and interest in work. It's not at all obvious how to restore it, though it'd be thrilling to.


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