Monday, March 12, 2012

Is Work Life, Real Life?

It's been too long since I last updated. So much for keeping posted every week... What am I going to do with myself? I can't seem to do anything consistently.

Moving On...

I've been working through a problem lately, and I feel like it might be good to share with my few readers.
This problem can be wrapped up in a simple question: How can we do the same thing over and over again with no variety for 20, 30, or even 40 years? What I am referring to hear is largely career oriented, but I suspect there are other facets of our lives that this could apply to. For now, I will remain on the career aspect of it.

I live in a society that emphasizes a strict adherence to time; a place where punctuality is considered to be a great ethic virtue. Some might even say that to not be punctual is morally wrong. Not only is time a strict measurement, but there is this sense that if you aren’t working 40-80 hours a week (as a student or otherwise) for at least 8 hours a day then you must be a lazy slob who will never get anywhere in life. I will allow that there are exceptions to this rule, and I will also note that I am exaggerating a little bit for effect; but only a little. I just have to wonder, how do people do it their whole lives? How do you get up, work 8 hours, get maybe 4-6 hours with your family, and then it’s back to sleep and again out the door? It feels broken and wrong.

I think there is something to be said about Latin cultures. It is a place where time is very loosely followed, and even work days are filled with an opportunity to rest from time to time. Having travelled to Latin America several times, I came to realize that this loosely based time structure was actually very freeing. Initially, it caused some duress because of how I’ve been raised, but then, as I got used to it, I began to enjoy it and maybe even crave it. “Got a party at 8:00? All right see you at around 8:30.” In fact, in some places, you are not considered late until after a full hour! Their work environment is a little different I’m sure, but not by much. When I had gone down to help build a larger building for a church I found that it wouldn’t be uncommon to take a mid-morning break for coffee (or tea) and maybe some fruit. It’s just the way it was. You started working at about 7 or 8 in the morning, stopped for about a half hour to socialize and snack and then back to work. Repeat this scenario for lunch and mid-afternoon. Yet, as I look back on that trip, I can honestly say I think we got more done in a week, than I see even in construction zones here in the United States. What makes the difference? I think it is a couple of things.

They are not in a hurry

They aren’t. You spend some time with that culture and you realize that though they have dreams, and plans, and goals, they aren’t in any direct hurry to get there. As an old adage goes, “It isn’t the destination, but the journey that’s important.” I believe this is true for these Latin cultures, and should be true of humanity. Sure, strive to get things done quickly if you need to. There is nothing wrong with having a sense of urgency, but I think there is something wrong when we get to the point of stressing out about the little things because it “slows us down”. To this I say, let things happen at their own pace. This is especially true for those who claim the title Christian. How many times are we told in Scriptures to “be anxious for nothing”? Or in sermons, how often are we reminded that we need to, “just let God have control, and you follow”? There is truth in there somewhere.

They take time to rest

Like I mentioned earlier, when I was helping build this church, we had frequent breaks during the day. I think this, in-turn, actually boosted efficiency rather than detracted from it. The more I think about this, the more it makes sense. When you take time to rest throughout the day, you actually allowing your body to recover from the exertion it has been experiencing, thus allowing your stamina to go for longer periods of time. In opposition to this, we have a society that works for 4-5 hours then gets (maybe) an hour lunch, followed by another 4-5 hours. This will tire anyone, and it leads to sloppy mistakes because people have a tendency to want to “hurry up and finish” so that we “might be able to go home early.” Truly, we might need to re-examine our work ethic if this is a consistent “problem”.

Admittedly, this is the area I am having the most trouble with. I just don’t feel like I’m getting the rest I need over a weekend. Part of this is due to the fact that sometimes I need to get a lot done on Saturday, which is my only true “lazy day” in any week, and part of it is due to the fact that I am an avid church goer; though this is out of pure desire to be taught and learn more of scriptures than some obligation because it’s what “any good Christian does”. Suffice to say, I am feeling very tired lately, and this is partly the reason I am writing this post now. The other part, of course, is related to everything else that I’ve been writing.

I think it is important to note that I do not believe that the Latin cultures have work down perfectly, but it certainly is better than what we do here in the US most of the time.

Alas, I’m back at my original question though: How have people done this for past 100 years? How can you get up day after day after day in the slow grind of routine? Is the motivation to provide for my family really that strong? How about my desire for job security (if it even exists)? What about… you fill in the blank.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t find the “just stick it out, it will get easier” answer to be very helpful or consoling. I also don’t really care for the answer of “just find a job you enjoy.” This proves to be an often untrue solution for me. I actually really enjoy my job; it is arguably one of the best jobs I have had in my entire career, and there are very few things I would like to do more. Of course, this all leaves me stuck wondering if this type of lifestyle was what God wanted for us when he created everything.

I don’t have an answer. I just have thoughts, and now I leave space for my readers to share theirs. Let me know what you think, or don’t, it’s up to you. Thanks for taking your time to read what I have to say.

Grace and Peace

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