MORE jobs in the last year than I can remember, and so little sense, through it all, of any purposeful endeavor, of meaningful labor, of real work. Ditchdigger. Bookkeeper. Cashier. Pipe Fitters Helper. It is so easy to become resentful — of an economic system that dictates desires as well as the means to satisfy them, of the tyranny of the clock, of the privileged, even of one’s own unrealized dreams, so naive do they sometimes seem against the deadening routine.
Yet, in the end, there is no one to blame. If I chose, like Thoreau’s friend, to work for the money to buy the railroad ticket, rather than walk, it is because I have become accustomed to the conveniences of the age, and am willing to pay.
And we pay dearly, in this society, for our conveniences. There are no masters without servants, and all that’s gained by having someone else do our dirty work for us is increased alienation, resentment, restlessness, and violence. Do thy own work, however humble, the Bhagavad Gita urges, rather than another’s, however great. It is still possible to live the simple life. The increasing numbers of people growing their own food, building their own homes, making their own clothes, and otherwise satisfying their most personal needs testifies to that. Yet it is so tempting to take what seems like the easy way out. And end up a slave to our needs — our holy needs that lead always to unholy disaster.
True, there are many that are unfairly denied even the barest necessities of a tolerable existence. Yet to see the problem wholly as a result of a cruelly exploitative economic system is to ignore our own culpability, our failure to live as if we were at home on this planet, our inability to wash behind our ears.
Me too, friend. I couldn’t tell you what to do for your tomatoes, even if they were dying, and these pants I’m wearing surely weren’t sewn by hand. I’m just a creature of comfort, trying, like the rest of us, to make it on a little less. But it takes so long to unlearn the old habits and the fancy ways. And I discover, so much to my chagrin, how much I’m still smitten by that lovely Miss America, who doesn’t settle for anything but the very best.