Day Thirty Six: Vantage

Daily Journal

Yesterday, I was going through the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. In Chapter 2: Building a Compass, the authors present an exercise called “Workview Reflection”. You write about 250 words, attempting to answer the following questions for yourself:

  • Why work?
  • What’s work for?
  • What does work mean?
  • How does it relate to the individual, others, society?
  • What defines good or worthwhile work?
  • What does money have to do with it?
  • What do experience, growth, and fulfillment have to do with it?
bertrandrussel

“Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all, we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others.” – Bertrand Russell

 

This is a much more difficult exercise than it sounds, because most of us probably haven’t really thought much about why we work or question what work means to us. There is a great deal of social conditioning involved, and most of us are probably just doing as we were told.

 

My first impulse was to Google the phrase “Why do we work”, and that search will return some excellent articles worth reading and take you as far down the the rabbit hole as you want to go. You can read some Aristotle (he says we work for leisure). You can read In Praise of Idleness, by Bertrand Russell, who says “there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous”. You can read The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx. Have you read The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss?

Once you do that, you can then become caught in a trap of debating in the forums. “Why should one aim for work that is for personal fulfillment? That’s for the privileged! We need garbage collectors, butchers, cooks, and people who do menial work too!” Indeed, the idea of “designing your life” itself seems like a first world thing, doesn’t it? Most people in the world are probably trying to find their next meal, and avoid their own injury and death. It must be nice to have the luxury of sitting down at a computer, “designing your life”.

I quickly discovered that unless I choose “professional debating” as an occupation, all the opinions are just noise, every opinion can be countered with another one, and then cognitive dissonance eventually sets in.

I suggest that, as an exercise, each person who has time to self reflect should do this exercise. If you aren’t busy working one of your two jobs right now, or hunting for gazelle, or running from a tiger, or debating Marxism vs. Capitalism on the internet. If you have about 30 minutes. Just decide for yourself. You are not describing what you do for a living or writing an argument essay. Just writing your own manifesto.

Here’s mine. (Note: These responses are rough, not composed as a persuasive essay or academic paper.)

Why work?- I work to meet my basic needs. Food, shelter, clothes, etc. I also work because I was socially conditioned by my family and teachers to work. Also, I have been unemployed for a short time before. It wasn’t fun. I felt like my life had no purpose. I became lazy and slept a lot, and I didn’t have money for my phone, gas, car insurance, and other luxuries that are actually considered necessities in the prosperous United States. Consequently, because I have ego and super ego, I felt like a loser. I work to meet my basic needs, because I’m expected to work, to avoid boredom and depression, and to not feel like a loser. 

What’s Work For?- In my world, there are different types of work. There is labor I perform for a paycheck, which I then use to pay bills and make purchases. There is my creative work, like writing this blog, making albums with my bands, and studying books for my personal development. That is work for my own self fulfillment. There is useless work that I sometimes fall into- writing lengthy debate comments on Facebook, and non value added “busy work” that employers sometimes make you do, but at least you get paid for it! Work is for generating income, creative pursuits, personal development, and providing value. 

What does work mean?- I had a hard time coming up with with what work means to me. I decided to borrow someone else’s words, possibly considering this person as a mentor. The person’s name is Swaminathan Lakshminarayanan, self described as an electronics engineer, avid reader, and counselor. The quote I found on Quora: “A platform to showcase my capabilities, talents and channelize them under specific responsibilities with commitment and contribute to the benefit of all stakeholders, while earning money and other benefits in return to better my life.”

How does it relate to the individual, others, society?- Work relates to others and society through the division of labor. Interestingly, these are three different types of work. Work for the individual- Work for personal gain and fulfillment, doing work for ourselves. Work for others- Helping your family or neighbors with a home improvement project, or moving. Work for society- Doing volunteer work or work for the greater good of society.

What defines good or worthwhile work?- Good or worthwhile worth, to me, is any kind of work that has a benefit for self, others, and society. Work that is enjoyable for its own sake is worthwhile. Work that provides benefit to others or society is worthwhile. Work is good when it doesn’t cause harm to self, others,  or society. For example, I choose to not deal drugs, work in the liquor business, deal guns, and so on. I say this not to debate the politics of whether or not drugs, liquor, and guns are bad or morally wrong, but rather to say I’d rather not work in those businesses if I can avoid it. Then there is neutral work, which is my day job. I ship shoes and clothes. People need clothing. Nothing wrong with the work or occupation, aside from the low pay and the fact that there is little opportunity for growth at my company.

What does money have to do with it?- We are no longer using barter and trade as the standard way of exchanging good and services. We use a currency system, which we do mostly for convenience. Of course, it often seems we treat money as an end goal in itself these days.

What do experience, growth, and fulfillment have to do with it?- When I think of experience, I think of mastery of a skill or specific industry. Growth I think of as learning more skills, expanding into other areas, and building success. Fulfillment is the enjoyment of your work for its own sake, your interest and passion in what you are doing.

That’s just a start. Tomorrow I will work on LifeView, as they call it.

Deng Ming-Dao on Vantage:

Distant ridges, far away clouds
All events come from a distance.
With a high vantage point, 
Foretelling the future is elementary

Deng Ming-Dao is saying that events can be seen coming, if you are in right place to see things coming. Nothing happens suddenly or abruptly. It reminds me of the expression “taking the moral high ground”. In this way, there is no magic of predicting the future. From the proper place, you can see events coming from a distance. As an example, he says:

“A wise person who lives high in the mountains and who is not blinded by wine, sensuality, intellectuality, poor health, or greed will be better able to see events in the distance than one who lives in a closed room, eyes on some obscure object.”

 

Daily Stoic: Steady Your Impulses

Today, Ryan Holiday uses the example of the manic people in your life. Their lives are in disorder and chaos, and aren’t these people exhausting? Don’t they have a filter to test and sort out bad impulses. I laughed a little, but only because quite often, I am probably that exhausting person myself! He says. Impulses are going to come up. When they do, ASK: Who is in control? What principles are guiding me?

Easier said than done!

Tomorrow, I will go over LifeView and a new work week begins. It sounds like there is no overtime offered this week, so I will have a Wednesday open to write some more, and get an extra hike in.

B.G.

Day Thirty Five: Utilization

Daily Journal

I just wrapped up two weeks straight of voluntary overtime at work. I have approximately $800 of debt remaining to pay off (mostly old medical and credit card bills I was unable to pay when I was unemployed for several months). That doesn’t sound like a lot, but my income is so low that it barely covers my expenses. So I have to work overtime. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am following the Dave Ramsey “baby steps”.

you-are-here-arrow-big-stock-photoMy girlfriend and I have been working through the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. It’s a fun book to work through, the premise being that you can design your life in the same way that products are designed.

The Health/Work/Play/Love Dashboard:

You can download a PDF version of the Health/Work/Play/Love Dashboard worksheet from DesigningYour.Life website.

As instructed by the book, you must always start where you are. So the first exercise is to assess where you are in these four areas of your life, ranking them from 0-Full. Then find your problems and solve them.

As a note, about two years ago, all four areas would have been close to 0. No job. No love. Everything I ever loved taken away from me. I lived in isolation, and what little limited contact I had with other human beings was mostly conflict. No play or joy in life whatsoever. Poor health, especially mental health, but also a respiratory illness and an injury that put me on short term disability. I was entertaining the idea of suicide as a way out. 

Right now:

Health: I am in good general health, getting regular exercise at my job and hiking trails in my area. I am no longer a daily drinker and haven’t been for a few years, and I quit smoking cigarettes about a week ago. I still cave in to junk food temptations (my family loves junk food!), but overall my diet is gradually getting healthier, having removed most of the fast food/vending machine/gas station food that I was eating almost daily. I could stand to get more sleep, as I only sleep about 6 hours a night. I would put my Health at around 50%.

Work: I work in a fulfillment center warehouse that ships shoes and apparel. It’s not the worst job in the world, but I could use some better income and more growth opportunity. At least, I get physical exercise at my job, and there are so many employees that you can’t get to know many people and you can avoid drama for the most part. I have started blogging and writing again. I’m on hiatus as a musician right now. I volunteer occasionally  to work in the Edible Garden at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky. I put my Work at 50%.

Play: Right now, it is winter time. My level of Play is really low this time of year, which I utilize to work overtime. Play will pick up in the summer time. For play, I go camping and travel (often to see bands or visit friends in other states). My Play is at 25% and I would like to keep Play sort of low, around 25%.

Love: My primary relationship is great, but is presently long distance as she lives in Arizona and I live in Kentucky. This will be resolved in March. My relationship with my children is okay. Unfortunately, I barely see them during the school year and their mother lives far away from me. These are “gravity problems”. I don’t have a lot of friendships in Kentucky and find it somewhat hard to relate to the culture in rural Kentucky. Most of my friends live in Arizona, but I’m blessed with technology that helps me to keep in touch with them and I’ve become accustomed to solitude. I have connections with my hiking and meditation groups. I have lost my passion for music, but have renewed my love for books and writing. I put Love at 75%.

In Chapter Two, the book covers Workview and Lifeview. I really liked this concept of two categories, one beginning related to personal development and goals, and the other related to spirituality and higher purpose, and seeking integration of the two.

I supposed I’m not too shocked, but as I completed the Workview exercise, I realized that I mostly view work from a crisis model. I don’t have enough money, so I take whatever work out of desperation just to eat and pay bills. Ideas like growth, career development, and utilization of my talent aren’t in the picture at all. The closest thing I’ve had to a career was in music, and for the most part, I’ve lost music.

The Lifeview Reflection exercise indicated that my values have changed from an atheistic, existentialist sort of model to a vaguely pantheistic, where there is more order to the universe than I previously believed, although I would not categorize it as hard determinism. I am exploring spirituality for the first time in the last two years.

Today I will do the full exercise of writing 25o words about each of the two views and comparing them.

Today, I will also do some running and work on writing a book. I have decided to write a book-length “manifesto”. I’ve gotten planning done and now I have to just get down to typing a draft.

Deng Ming-Dao on Utilization:

Today, Deng Ming-Dao says that harnessing the forces of nature is “proper utilization of Tao” and the idea is perfectly related to the Designing Your Life book I just mentioned. You can borrow from the power of nature, but we cannot change nature. As the authors of Designing Your Life, many problems are “gravity problems”. You can’t do anything about gravity. You can do things to make the struggle easier (like climbing a hill with a lighter bicycle) or use gravity to your advantage at times.

“When initiative and natural forces are combined, there is true harmony.”
-Deng Ming-Dao

That quote is really the entire theme of this blog. I am trying to combine my own initiative and goals with the laws of the universe and make them be in harmony.

The Daily Stoic

Reacting emotionally will only make a bad situation worse. If someone is provoking you, they may be trying to get a response from you. If we shrug off attacks, and easily handle pressure and problems, then we are invincible, per Epictetus.

Tomorrow, there will be more about the “Designing Your Life” exercise and I will provide a list of all the books I am using right now. I also need to work through the Tao Te Ching, which I’ve barely covered so far. I’ll eventually get around to everything, I supposed. Only 11 months to go!

Take care.
B.G.

Day Twenty Nine: Scars

Daily Journal

Yesterday was very productive. The kids completed the tasks on their To Do list by 11:00

businessforbohemians

The latest book by Tom Hodgkinson, one of my favorite Gen X writers.

AM, and then went to the movies to see A Dog’s Purpose with my mother and sister. I took a couple of hours to catch up on three days worth of blogs I was behind on, and restored the kitchen back to a clean condition. I went through all my bills, using a bill organizer notebook I purchased for $2 at Dollar General. Remarkably, I noticed I had paid off $350 to a collection agency for debt owed to my doctor’s office for almost one year, and paid off half of what little defaulted credit card debt remained with this week’s paycheck. I ran my annual free credit report, finding 3 open accounts I still need to pay off. Surprisingly, I’m almost debt free. The problem seemed much worse than it actually was, but I’ve been so poor for the last two years that even paying off $1500 in debt seemed impossible. I finished filing my taxes yesterday too.

 

I downloaded two new books to my Kindle, and added to my Goodreads reading list:

I’ve been a fan of Tom Hodkinson since I first bought his book The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste at the Borders bookstore on Mill Avenue in Tempe, AZ sometime during the year 2007. I generally purchase every book he writes and Business for Bohemians is the latest one I didn’t have.

Write It Down
My advice now is to go for a long walk and think about your life. Then come home, sit down with a notebook and write down what you want to do and how you want to live. What brings you pleasure, and what brings you satisfaction? What would your ideal day look like? That is the first step.
-Chapter One: How Do You Want to Live?, Business for Bohemians by Tom Hodgkinson

My ambitions are return to a regular writing habit, keeping a blog, and writing ebooks which I put up for sale. I’d like to have some kind of part time job I don’t have, and a band that produces income and keeps my legacy and name out there. My ideal day will go like this: Wake up early in the morning. Shower. Meditation. Exercise. Breakfast. Writing or journaling. Maybe podcasting. In the afternoon, I have some kind of job I do that I don’t mind doing. In the evening, I have dinner, spend time with my family, maybe have a beer or a coffee, and read a good book. On weekends, I hike, play a gig somewhere, go on a road trip. 

This sounds like fantasy, but everything I’ve done started with goals. In 2007, it might have looked like this:

I plan to release several more albums with different acts, go on tour every winter, eventually getting a spot in a band with a bigger name, going professional. Quit my job. Maybe live part time in Kentucky, and do winters in Phoenix or Los Angeles. Write a book. My ideal day: I wake up whenever I want, work on my book in the backyard with a laptop, coffee, and pack of cigarettes. I practice on my bass or a guitar for an hour or so. I don’t have a job, and luckily I don’t need one because I make more from music than a job would pay me. In the evening, I socialize in a bar, drink as much beer as I want, and stagger home to bed. 

The reality went like this:

Three of four albums I played on came out. That would be The Earps debut and follow up called Get a Room. Back to Monkey City with Jeff Dahl. The Moonshine Millionaires EP. The idea that any of those works sold well enough to not have to work is beyond merely laughable. I moved back to Kentucky. I stopped writing blogs and failed at several attempts to write a novel. I did manage to earn $12,000 per year by playing every weekend in a country cover band, but that only lasted four years. The rest of the time I worked 40-50 hours per week at $10-$12 per hour dead end jobs. I was asked to join one of my favorite bands, Nine Pound Hammer, to the shock and awe of my old bandmates, particularly The Earps guys. I played two gigs with them, the summer Europe tour never happened and I was disappointed about that, and then the former bass player asked to rejoin the band and I was out. I did drink a lot, smoke a lot, and spend a lot of time in bars. After I turned 40, I started to think more seriously about my health. Everything fell apart when the ex ran off with a coworker, and I bottomed out completely.

I think it’s good to make a plan, and maybe follow up on it in six months, tweak it a little. I’m not sure everyone ever achieves their ideal fantasy life, but it does at least give you some direction. That’s all planning is really good for. It is remarkable how much of what you planned can be accomplished, even if those things are subject to disappointing results or Careful What You Wish For syndrome. Then there are some unplanned events and disasters. Note: Not all unplanned things are negative, but many of them can be.

Either way, we are really lucky to live in the first world, where we can pursue our dreams instead of merely pursuing our next meal and trying to avoid our own death today.

Deng Ming-Dao on Scars

Today’s entry is like Part II of yesterday’s discussion, focusing on the scars and abuse we were subjected to in the past. He says that “scars that have happened through no fault of our own may bar us from spiritual success. Unfortunately, it is often easier to give up a bad habit than to recover from these injuries, the scars mar us forever.” He goes on to say that doctors and priests can only do so much. Personally, I’ve dealt with many issues from childhood that have carried over into my adult life and helped set me up for failure, creating a lack of confidence and self worth, which I medicated with booze for about 15 years. Bullying, whippings, humiliation, and intimidation are really the only events I remember with any clarity from my childhood. At this point, not being able to change the past (yes, I can reframe the past, perhaps), I look more toward not scarring my own children and “try to acquire as few new problems as possible”. I’ve gone through psychiatry and counseling. As the author says, it only did so much. I was unsatisfied with psychiatry insistence on treating everything with drugs, and at best the results were mixed good and bad. I think Deng Ming-Dao gives good advice here that we must heal ourselves through self cultivation. Use many methods. “Travel widely”. Overcome our phobias. Do not continue living with your own toxic patterns and perpetuating more problems. If we cannot overcome each scar, they will “bar us from communion with Tao”.

The Daily Stoic: Keep it simple.

Good advice today. Don’t overthink things. Focus on what’s right in front of us. “We don’t need to get lost in a thousand other distractions or in other people’s business.”

On February 1st, I will celebrate an entire month of blog posts. I will record a podcast where I reflect on the experience of January 2017. February 1st begins a new challenge: I will spend at least 15 minutes per day doing some kind of work toward the goal of increasing my income. That can be looking around for a better job, looking for extra money gigs, updating resume, anything that might help improve my earnings for 2017.

Cheers,
B.G.

Day Seventeen: Cooperation

Full disclosure: This blog is backdated. I was wrapped up with work for 10 hours on January 17th, followed by hiking 6 miles with my Meetup hiking group, coming home in time for dinner, call to my girlfriend, and heading off to bed, turning in a bit later than I wanted to.

Today, I did something I hadn’t tried in a few years. I sat down and created a budget. Over the years, I’ve mostly kept track of my finances in my head, which sometimes has worked out okay, but mostly hasn’t. My big problems have been impulse purchases and falling behind while in crisis, or after a disaster, and all those years I spent way too much money drinking, both at bars and at home.

moonshine-millionaires

Cooperation: Moonshine Millionaires, probably the best-managed and ost productive act in my music career. All members influenced each other, and were placed in roles that suited them best. We had an excellent, experienced, and well-connected outside manager, a career first for me.

I’ve been reading some Dave Ramsey material. Of course, he’s the wildly popular radio host of The Dave Ramsey Show, about getting out of debt and managing money. Seemed like a good place to start. I used the Dave Ramsey Quick Start Budget printout.

My key discovery- no real surprise here!- I spend almost as much as I earn, even after cutting many things out of my budget long ago, such as daily beer drinking, and dining at restaurants. In the past, at times, I was able to eat, drink, and be merry a few nights per week. I had multiple sources of income back then.

Here is a really good blog post by Brian Eisenberg called What Makes People Buy? 20 Reasons Why. This list is worth a look, if you wonder why you buy things.

While I’ve had some problems with emotional spending (“retail therapy”), I’m not really a fear buyer or one who must have all the latest fads. My #1 problem is buying due to addiction.

I am presently still a one pack per day cigarette smoker. I quit a few years ago, last over a year until my new band Moonshine Millionaires had a smoke break at the El Camino Restaurant & Bar in Bardstown. I caved. I quit another time for six months. Both times I used nicotine replacement therapy, having the most success with the patch. The best way to buy cigarettes is the get the lowest price on a full carton, which I have almost never done. Denial is very powerful, so of course, feeling that “you might quit any day now”, you just buy one pack at a time. You might quit tomorrow. Why buy 10 packs? Of course, years go by and you are still a daily smoker. The problem with buying one pack at a time is that means you stop at a gas station every day to get a fresh pack, and what usually happens? You buy other times, like a soda, candy, snacks, or decide you also want a six pack of beer. That pack of smokes can become a $20 sale for the gas station.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve also become addicted to energy drinks. My main brand has been Rock Star since Handy Food Mart in Bardstown has them for $.99 instead of $2.50. I also drink Venom Black Mamba, which is only $.99, when I can find it. I don’t like Monster. Red Bull is probably my favorite, but I can’t afford to spend $4-$5 for a drink. It wasn’t uncommon for me to spend $2.50 on energy drinks. I had gotten up to 2-3 energy drinks per day. Empty cans were littering the floorboard of my car. I’ll bet the average amount us energy drink users spend is around $1500 – $2000 per year. Having an energy drink once in a while wouldn’t be so bad. After stopping my habit of 6-12 beers every day, I can now go several months without a beer and never abuse it anymore. Hopefully, I will be able to do the same with energy drinks. Right now, I don’t want to pay through the nose for this newer addiction. I drank my last Rock Star on January 7th, purchased at a Circle K near the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix.

Another discovery I made is that my job requires a lot of my time and yet, I still remain a working poor person who is unable to save or pay off debts (and also maintain his addictions, of course), or deal with any kind of emergency. I thought about it, and this has lead to my having a poor attitude and resentment about work, but I can also see a LOT of money problems have been my own damn fault too. Right away, I can see that I will need to cut all unnecessary expenses to put what little money that is toward debt and savings.

I will need to work overtime on a regular basis or find a better paying job. In the past, I supplemented my income with cover bands, but I am no longer able to do that and still be present in my kids’ lives since live music is weekend work (my time with the little ones) and usually a much bigger commitment than you think it will be, with many demands on your time.

Starting February 1st, I will start a 66-day mini-project of spending 15-30 minutes each day making some effort to look for more income. This can be anything. Setting up a LinkedIn profile, browsing Craigslist looking for a random one-time gig, looking through Want Ads for a better paying job, anything toward earning more money.

I will be using the Dave Ramsey Plan, trying to get as far through the first three Baby Steps as I can during 2017.

  1. Save $1000 Emergency Fund.
  2. Pay off Debts using “Debt Snowball”.
  3. Saving $4800 (approximately 3 months of my living expenses)

Deng Ming-Dao on Cooperation:

Today was a good entry in Tao 365. I’ve really similar passages in the Tao Te Ching. Deng Ming-Dao says “true leadership is a combination of initiative and humility.

Key points:

  • When we join some kind of group, we gradually become a part of the group. There will be mutual influence.
  • We influence the collective, and we are shaped by our company.
  • To influence others: We need to know when to act, when to be passive, when others are receptive to us, and when they will not listen.
  • There will be both frustration and success.
  • Maintain our position or change it, if there is a better position.
  • Credit is never taken. The best leader should be obscure, not drawing personal attention.
  • Credit is awarded when people realize it was the subtle influence of the leader that brought success.

The Daily Stoic: Reboot the Real Work

To quickly summarize today’s chapter, Holiday is saying that making an effort improves the quality of your life and the world. Just do the work. Let go of the past and begin now.

Tomorrow, I will discuss some personal goals I’m laying out for different areas in my life.

Peace.
B.G.

Day Eight: Work

On Thursday, Jessica was informed that she lost her job at a company that manufactures and sells dog toys to pet stores, retailers, and distributors all over the country. Over the last seven years of her employment there, the business has changed quite a bit and the owner made a decision to let all in-house sales reps go, and outsource some outside salespeople instead. Her boss was generous, giving each employee a $4,000 severance package, and offering to provide letters of recommendation to them.

wp-image-155068534jpg.jpg

Photo from today’s hike at North Mountain Preserve in Phoenix

On Saturday, we watched “Choice Point: Align Your Purpose” on the Gaia channel, which was all about the cycles of changes in a person’s life after a crisis, which they call a “choice point”, an opportunity for personal growth and a chance to transform yourself into something in alignment with your Higher Self, or authentic self.

We are both roughly 40 years old, have chased our rock n roll dreams in bands, touring around in old vans and putting out DIY and indie label albums, while holding down day jobs.

What now?
She’s presently unemployed. I joined the ranks of Kentucky’s working poor a few years ago after leaving the land of opportunity in Phoenix 7 years ago to be closer to family after 15 years of being disconnected from them.

What’s it going to be now? Which path do you take from here? Which factory or warehouse will you make $12 an hour at? Can you escape somehow?

wp-image-1408920631jpg.jpg

Jessica and her blue heeler, Spike, on the trail at North Mountain Preserve in Phoenix.

 

 

I suggested to her that she should take a silent retreat at the Santa Rita Abbey, The Monastic Community of the Trappistine Branch of Cistercian Nuns, in southeastern Arizona. At least 5 days.

I have been wanting to take a 10 day Vipassana or Trappist retreat (or hell, even a cross country hike or bicycle trip!) for a while, but you really have to be at that place in life, between jobs with time off and no short term desperate need for income, and no one dependent on you, such as children.

 

Why a Catholic retreat???

The reasons for this:

  • They cost significantly less than other places that offer retreats, sometimes even for free. Santa Rita Abbey charges $40 per day. Private rooms, food and amenities included.
  • The Trappists are interfaith, mostly quiet, and do not proselytize.
  • Their communities are refuge from media, frenetic activities and stresses of urban life, advertising, electronic gadgets, and the temptation to distract yourself.
  • The Trappists will inspire you to appreciate solitude, as The Trappists at The Abbey of Gethsemani have taught me to be okay with being alone.
  • You get lots of quiet time to reflect, journal, and think about your life’s purpose, and so on.
  • Their singing and rituals are quite pleasant to experience.

 

A Daily Meditation on Work

Key points from today’s chapter of 365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming Dao:

  • You must work to survive.
  • You labor in harmony with the seasons. (In his example, a woodcutter must work hard prior to the first cold to have the luxury of working less during the snowy winter.
  • You must work smarter not harder. (Let the blade of the ax do the work. You don’t have to swing hard if you strike the wood with the grain, not against the grain.)
  • “True labor is half initiative  and half knowing how to let things proceed on their own.”

I grew up in a workaholic culture. I had a conversation with my father where he remarked that in conversations, there really isn’t much to talk about except what you do for a living or talk about your family or kids.

“What????”

There is philosophy. Art. Music. Books. Ideas. Travel stories. Trivia.

I later learned from a conversation this week with my grandmother (his mother) that work is a family value, her father (my great grandfather) also put an emphasis on work and lamented that being unable to work as much as an elderly person bothered him much later in his life. This is true of most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins on his side of the family.

I was involved in a lot of lazy activities growing up. Reading books. Writing. Playing guitar in bands. Listening to records. This created some conflict in my family when I was younger. I was a lazy person.

Even now, as I type this, I’m writing a blog on a vacation day off from work. Is writing “work”? Is this a good use of my time or is this lazy? Should I be loading trucks or remodeling a house instead?
I did notice in the last few years, my playing in bands was somewhat more respectable to my father when I was playing in a busy cover band, as it hadn’t been when I was playing punk bands that didn’t make so much money. The cover band wa loading and unloading trailers, which he could relate to. Putting in the hours and making money by providing a service that had a real market demand.

Today, I earn less money from working at an order fulfillment warehouse in Kentucky than I did 17 years ago in a call center in Tempe.

I actually enjoy the physical labor of loading trucks and shipping orders of shoes and apparel. Some of the work is repetitive and I can become bored during a 1o hour work day, but I am also blessed to be able to listen to headphones while I work, and I utilize my work day to learn from listening to audio books, lectures, and good podcasts while I am working.

I have a Thomas Merton quote handwritten in my pocket notebook that I refer to often:

“And so, for a contemplative, there is supreme value in the ordinary routine of work and poverty and hardship and monotony that characterize the lives of all the poor and uninteresting and forgotten people in the world.” 

-from New Seeds of Contemplation.

My lesson from Deng Ming-Dao today is that I should utilize the winter months to work overtime to pay off my debts and save money so that I may work less during the summer months so I can spend time in nature, enjoying the better weather with my children.

Day 8 of Daily Stoic: SEEING OUR ADDICTIONS

My addictions that I need to work on this year:

  1. Cigarettes.
  2. Caffeine, particularly expensive
    energy drinks” such as Rock Star, Red Bull, etc.
  3. Facebook addictiction.
  4. Complaining.
  5. Arguing.
  6. Shopping.

All I can think of, for now.

See you tomorrow.
B.G.

Aint’ got no cards, don’t pay no tax
For a score in me hand I’ll be breaking me back
I been working
And I been working all day for me mate
Call me a crook, call me bent
But I need more than food and rent
I been working
And I been working all day for me mate

Cocksparrer, “Working”, from the Shock Troops album