Today is Labor Day, one of many holidays that I often accidentally ignore because I’ve never had any particular reason to deeply consider why I had the day off from school/work/whatever. But thanks to the wonders of Facebook and several great postings from my friends and organizations, I find myself actually considering Labor Day and how we might celebrate such a proletariat holiday in our present world.
Work can be beautiful. I am a huge proponent of creating with one’s hands, sweating, connecting, building something for the future. I even wrote a paper for a Communication Studies class in college on Benedictine monks and their order’s philosophy of prayer through work. Work can be a meaningful and even spiritual act of love for the world.
However, with a tanking economy, environment, job market, etc etc, it should be obvious that we need to revise the world of labor, to rethink what a job is and how it fits into our lives. The definition of work cannot be limited to a conventional job, and how much more work do we need in our lives anyway?
On this nearly five day weekend (I don’t work on Fridays, Saturdays, or Tuesdays, and only worked five hours this past Sunday) I have found myself emmeshed in guilt at my extensive amount of leisure time. I have spent hours reading, conversing with friends, eating delicious food, biking about the Cities, volunteering at a marvelous local brewery (and drinking beer all the while) and just generally enjoying myself while doing almost nothing that is conventionally viewed as ‘productive’. But why should leisure feel like a guilty pleasure?
One’s primary work should be creating a life worth living, and the relationship building and vocational exploration that comes along with it. Leisure and work should not be mutually exclusive, and should in fact be deeply intertwined. Our standard of living should adapt to the true needs and wants of humanity, and our ‘work week’ should adjust accordingly.
Today let us celebrate those who labor, paid and unpaid, official and otherwise. And let us also redefine what work is valuable and how it might fit into a holistic, beautiful, connected life.