Working too Hard


I remember the time I was driving my mother somewhere and saw her glance out the window and wave at the son of a friend of hers. She looked wistful and said, "Isn't it a shame that D____ has to work in a clothing store?" Possibly she thought that D____ had had suffered a financial reverse and needed to work just to pay his bills.

I mentioned this to someone who knew D____, and she said "No way." D____ was in good shape financially. He worked because he enjoyed it. It was a high-end clothing store; he saw all his old friends there and knew all the latest gossip. Besides, he liked clothes, he knew clothes, and he was good at it. He immersed himself in the culture, and it paid off. He dressed smartly himself, and it was good for business.

I also remember when I ran into my old college art-professor. I had graduated ten years before and had lost touch with him. He had since retired and taken a new job as a grocery-sacker for Publix. I spoke to him just to prove to myself that I wasn't dreaming, and that it was really him, in a Publix uniform, sacking groceries.

He said he enjoyed the work. He enjoyed running into university colleagues, former students like me, socializing, and keeping up with things. He had nothing to prove to anyone, professionally; so why not keep working? His professorship at the university required a lot of personal initiative and inventiveness to stay on top of the job. At the grocery store, all he had to do was sack groceries, and he loved it.
During my last year at university, I was working my usual part-time job in the dining-hall and ran into an old classmate who had graduated a few years ahead of me. He intended to go to law-school and had to go through the rigmarole of preparing for it; so he took a job in the dining-hall to make the waiting tolerable, and have some extra spending-money. There he was in his white employee-jacket, toting a broom and dust-pan. I could hardly believe it.

And lastly, I remember my own experience of getting out of college and going to work—working like a fiend for a couple of years to make up for all the shame and frustration I had felt from being such a lousy student. Work touched an inventiveness and problem-solving facility in me and gave me a jolt of self-confidence I had not had during college. Having to listen to my professors drone on for hours left me with a bad taste in my mouth for school because I could not engage them.

So seeing left-wing bloggers on Facebook disparage their working environments made me rethink this subject. They treated work as an unremitting drudge. Maybe those same people would prefer to  sit studiously in a classroom, listening to a stodgy professor drone on for hours. Such contrasting views on the psychology of working people.

The Newsweek article at the top of this page and the Facebook posts come at the conclusion of the Covid Lockdown. Maybe average Americans took for granted they would always lived sequestered and solitary in their homes. Now that on-site work situations are calling them back, they will need to orientate themselves once more to a human work environment. We'll see.

In the meantime, take heart from this speech given by Albert Einstein in 1930. He uses the words "tinkering and brooding researcher" with a "constructive imagination." To me, Einstein really says to us "Give yourselves a chance to grow into something bigger, with an analytical orientation and a burning curiosity for doing something better and faster." When that happens, your work may end up consuming you.