Work-Life Or Life Work?

  • Pavel Nekoranec Unsplash.

Wilhelm Reich said there are two things important in life for well-being, love, and work. Reich talked about biological environmental energy that he called orgone energy, an inner and outward current that flows through everything. In Reichs thinking about the purpose of work, money was not the point of discussion or departure other than that Reich observed that all classes exhibited a similar dysfunctionality in the flow of the orgone energy. The purpose of work that Reich considered was as a means to a meaningful and well-balanced life

What Reich called orgone energy I identify as visceral energy, which is the energy of meaningfulness. It is whole and cannot be analyzed into parts. Therefore it is felt and not reasoned. It is present or it isn’t and when it is present, life is experienced as heightened. If one trusts this energy, it may lead to an extraordinary journey. Faith in your own visceral energy works in mysterious ways, where one discovers the why and where for of one’s destination in retrospection.

One might find oneself working in a job that society may rate as a nowhere job and yet feel the visceral energy alive and active. One’s life purpose is not measured by the same metrics as those imposed by external culture. There is always something else at work than that which meets the common eye.

The relationship of work to money is a cultural attitude. Mass culture promotes monetary wealth and security as the guiding light in choosing an occupation and as the measure of success. Many will advise against following one’s passion and even more, will tell how to become successful using money as the meaning of success, not seeing that if one chooses one objective, one may be sacrificing other objectives that may actually lead to a more holistic measure of success.

I am either blessed or baned with having a father who, early on in life, quit his secure job as Dean of an Art Institute, to move to rural Maine with his wife and three young children, to start a ceramic design and slip-casting enterprise.

My Dad told about the times that Russell Wright asked him to apprentice but Dad did not feel that he could afford to do so with a wife and two children at the time. I did not say but did observe that Dad quit his job in Ohio, to move to Maine to start a life as a struggling artist, designer, and entrepreneur. It was not untrue that when Russel Wright invited Dad to apprentice, that Dad declined because he had a family to support, but it was also probably a factor that Russel Wright, like most of the young New York midcentury designers of the 1950s designed for industry, meaning for corporate factories, which were then located in the USA. Dad was raised on a farm in Iowa during a time when corporate farming was taking over and so, designing for the corporate industry was not what inspired my Dad. He wanted to create an alternative to the corporate industrial movement.

When Dad chose to move to Maine to set up his own industry, he was able to do industry his own way in which production was used as an art form, a decade or so before Andy Warhol is credited with inventing the concept, which is a natural resolution to the outcries against factory work spoken loudly about in response to the Industrial Revolution.

Dad was following his passion, which incorporated and gave expression to his own internal meaning, which as meaning is something wholistic and not divisible into parts, it permeates every aspect of living. When Dad talked about ceramics and the making process, he conveyed a profound sense of meaningfulness.

Having grown up in an environment wherein meaning leads and money follows, it was impossible for me to be motivated by the pursuit of mere money. Whatever I invested my life on earth in had to be meaningful.

In my youth, I was a lost soul in the world when I tried to conform to the social norm in which monetary concerns lead the way. I gave up on that sort of thinking and fell into a variety of interesting occupations but I always moved on. I read philosophy and especially metaphysics but it was not until I read Martin Buber’s Between Man and Man that I understood the right way to identify a guiding light to follow in life.

Martin Buber was motivated to write Between Man and Man because he missed his calling in life while meditating. Because he was meditating he did not respond to a young person who was reaching out to him and the young person killed himself.

It was then that Buber had an epiphany that events presented to one in the course of living is God speaking to us, calling for a response.

In those terms, I could understand that it is within one’s own life that one’s guidance is found. In my case, I was born into a unique history that extends long before my lifetime or my parent’s lifetimes. My Dad was responding to the circumstances of his times when he chose not to follow in the footsteps of Russel Wright and the urban midcentury designers, designing for a growing corporate culture and to instead following in the footsteps of an earlier movement responding to corporate industrialization during their own times, by creating an alternate culture.

The Arts and Crafts Movement, and other related movements are eloquently portrayed in the writings of Lewis Mumford when Mumford identifies that all creative people are thinking in the future as they respond to the social and political times that are present in their own lifetimes.

These architects, then, share a place with the romantic poets, like Blake and Whitman, who wrote for a non-existent democracy, and with romantic individualists in all the other arts who were attempting to embody in their own personalities and in their own work something that could not be brought into secure existence without the political and social co-operation of a sympathetic community. In the main, these romantics were prophets of life but of a life and order to come. What the artist created was but a sample, a small working model, which must be thrown as it were into mass production before the existence of the new pattern could be guaranteed and its full meaning for society realized. Lewis Mumford The Culture of the Cities pg 410

Life is a journey of responding to what is presented to us wherein one consideration need not negate another, but an imbalance can do exactly that. If one considers that money and security are the sole guides, one might cease to hear the inner rhythmic energy of life itself that is the soul guide.

In the twenty-first century, as automation threatens many former forms of income, every instance of human expression is subject to monetization. During the twentieth century when the internet was new, it was a new era for free speech, but as time moved on, self-publishers became bloggers and bloggers became content providers and tweets become NFT’s. Is speech freedom or is it a commodity? How does a set of rules for increasing monetization affect other motivations for human expression?

There is another way of considering work beyond its monetary purpose, which is as a life purpose. When wearing my writer’s hat, I want to be an influencer of ideas and society, the same with all my other hats. Humanity is on a continuum, we are all the creators of that continuum, deciding where it will go.

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