Working into the Precipice
|There’s an exhilaration from work that feels a bit like going fast on a 4-wheeler. Skiing, if that’s you. It surpasses exhaustion. It surpasses mere tedium – tedium just makes it go faster. There’s a kind of desire wrapped up in work, a euphoria in the work of one’s life, that takes you to the point that you drop, finally, because you just can’t anymore. It’s like sex in that way.
There’s a work that wakes you up with new ideas – work that makes you forget about eating, the way video gamers sometimes do (no so much, these days – in the old days, gamers became computer geeks and invented mediums like these – it became the work of their lives. Now, it’s more of a kneejerk activity – it’s the mere recreation that consumes them.)
You can’t get this fully across to people who only experience work as a burden. They can’t understand why you would work, voluntarily, more than you have to – why you would do it for enjoyment. They’ve got it backwards. Work is the purest enjoyment. It is not that you enjoy your work, at first; it is that you set out to find the work that you enjoy. But you’re not seeking enjoyment in the way one enjoys a sitcom. The answer is not “Well, I enjoy sitting on my butt and eating Cheetos…”
To derive continual pleasure from work means that your life will be free of the pensive, all-encompassing boredom that grips the world of mere entertainment.This is the thing that’s sick about our culture – we’ve even lost the source of real enjoyment: meaning. The secret to enjoyment of one’s work is immersion in work that is brimming with meaning. That will be particular to you. One cannot help but think that the current culture’s denial of meaning – it’s underlying nihilism, skepticism, and rejection of sincerity and depth – is responsible for the inability to derive real and true pleasure from the things we call “enjoyment” and from things that offer the most enjoyment.
You can hear people talk about “having fun” the way they talk about “having friends”: most of them seem to have no real experience of the fullness of it. With friendship, it’s the kind where you give your lives for one another, continually. Similarly, their version of fun is reductionist. It’s like listening to someone describe wine who has never had a wine that cost more than $2 a bottle. We’re not really talking about the same thing. It’s like teenagers talking about sex – they may have some physical experience, but they really don’t know anything beyond mechanics.
To derive continual pleasure from work means that your life will be free of the pensive, all-encompassing boredom that grips the world of mere entertainment – of looking for that next, slightly larger, flat panel TV. The senility of recreation in our culture has reached a point of crying out for meaningful, delightful, fulfilling work.
But it’s like an elusive lover – you have to court her, woo her, tantalize and invite her, and then embrace her truly, with your real self, not holding it back. You can’t put only your social self into real work, your public self, your safe self. You have to kick in all of it. You have to let go of the edge and free fall into the precipice, and only then will it not be the void.