What Does it Matter? Why Work?
A little something I wrote in 2018, before the pandemic:
It finally happened. I was in my cubicle at work, collaborating on a project with a coworker when the words came out of my mouth. Three days earlier, the United Nations came out with a report imploring the planet to get its act together and reduce its carbon dioxide production. The report stated that we had twelve years before catastrophic irreversible events will happen. I have believed for many years now that the people on earth are doomed - we have created an environment that no longer will sustain us. But it is not the environment we created that will doom us, it is our attitudes... and it is too late.
I first explored this possibility when I was writing in the voice of the character Claire in The Book of Bartholomew. Here (https://bookofbartholomew.blogspot.com/2016/02/6-claire.html) you can read a humorous short story of Claire discussing the end of the world with a chicken, Henrietta. Claire is a young woman who is very upset about what we are doing to the environment. She is rageful at Mayor Dick and his horrible policies. In my cubicle, I was sitting with a young woman, Claire's age, developing a public art tour. That's when I turned to her and said:
“What does it matter, the world is ending. I mean really, why do we show up to work everyday and stay here from 8 – 4:30?”
And thus it begins. As the reality of the situation starts to sink in to people, one at a time, they will begin to ask the same questions: Why should I be spending my days doing what I am doing? Many of them will realize that what they are doing is worthless. Others will discover that what they are doing is not fulfilling them or leading to a better life. After the UN report came out, I am sure I am not the only one that began to think this way. Today it is me. Tomorrow it is some woman in Cleveland. In six months, when another dire report comes out, our numbers will grow. Four months after that, when we are in a drought, more will jump on the wagon. Why are we doing what we are doing? Why do I get up every morning, drive to a building far from my home and then sit or stand and do stuff for eight hours? With each passing year, the absurdity of it will reach more people. Eventually, there will be critical mass – enough people that the system that keeps us behaving this way will break down.
Imagine if gas stations had to close because they couldn't find anyone who wanted to work in them - it no longer seemed significant to enough people to sell a product that pollutes this world while eating up their own personal time to do something more fulfilling. How many people would decide that their boss or their work situation was too unbearable? Decide that no money was enough to keep them there. The bar for such a decision will lower as other aspects of life become more important, like spending time taking care of those you love. Because of money, we have decided that leaving our families for long periods of time, daily, is the way to help and support them. The absurdity will hit more and more people as the earth continues to threaten us as a result of what we have done to it.
When time starts to be precious, money becomes less valuable. When time starts to fritter away, our activities turn to focus on that which brings kindness, assurance, and love. How many times have we seen younger hard-edged people soften as their sun begins to head toward the horizon. While those who do not soften become more isolated.
So, now it begins, as it always has been. Our days have ever been numbered... for all of us. May we fill our time here with camaraderie, love and sustaining projects.