Finding A Place


While it is true that we all need money to survive, it is decidedly _not_ true that we must have a “job” to survive. Let me explain. I did a lot of reading when first laid off last year, and one of the things that became clear to me is that the concept of “job” or “work” as we now understand it did not come about until the last 150 years or so. Prior to that, people did jobs, they worked at the things that needed to be done, but there was little concept of job in the sense of it being something you held onto. In other words, there were things you had to get done, so you did them. Working was a verb, and not a noun.

Farmers worked their farms, sailors sailed ships, soldiers fought wars and so on. Students studied, lawyers, well they practiced law, the Clergy studied their faith and tended their flocks and on and on. The idea that a “job” could become a specialized set of skills where different people carried out different tasks to effect the construction of a whole object is a notion that comes out of the industrial revolution. We credit Henry Ford with the invention of the assembly line, but that is not quite true either. The roots of the modern “job” go back a bit further.

What you can envisage is that factory managers, in their limited wisdom set down certain guidelines for the assembly and construction of their products. The chief motivating factors being cost and time to market. Farmers have faced these problems forever it would seem, and they naturally divided the labor into phases: Soil Preparation, Planting, Growing and Harvesting. The skills required for each phase are obviously different, and so a farmer naturally has a plethora of skills (jobs) used to get his crop to market. Farmers have also always used “laborers” or workers (unskilled for the most part) to help in each of these phases. A mule is considered a “helper” in that sense though, just so you get the idea.

So, the notion that laborers become “skilled” at a particular task and eventually pigeonholed into doing _only_ that task is pretty much a concept stemming from the Industrial Revolution. If we consider that the chief constraints are resources, then we can almost always address the issue as cost. More time means more money, as well as more material in the production process means higher costs as well. Thus was born the idea that specialization could attack the problem of reducing cost. What did that decision in turn cause?

The problem is myriad. What happened to society at the start of the Industrial Revolution, then the middle and now in the “Post Modern” world is quite contrary to what the original planners could have envisaged. Bringing superior products of all types to market at lower costs have made our world a marvel of modern gadgetry. We all of us depend on these gadgets now and could not possibly imagine our lives without such marvels as the telephone, radio and TV and of course, the computer. Our lives have become an enmeshed melting pot of practicality and invention that supposedly saves time and makes our lives better, but in reality, makes us slaves to our sophistication.

What? Huh? How can that be?

Think about it, how long does society hold together if essential services (telephone, TV, Radio, Power, Water, Sewer, etc…) get taken out? Can any of us make it on our own without those things today? Has our dependence on technology backfired? Has this stuff become such a large distraction for us that we’ve truly forgotten what is important? My vote is: YES! Absolutely!

Jesus said: “A new command I give you. Love one another.” Has all this “stuff” we have now helped us to love one another more? My answer is decidedly: No! People are misled and they say that Religion has caused more wars and killed more people than anything else. I say they’re wrong. I say that technology is to blame. Technology made the German killing machine more efficient than any other army in history, and then of course, came the Americans with our technology right on top of that. We’ve become so good at killing that we’ve had to make rules and laws so that we don’t kill needlessly. Prior to WWI, most “enlightened” folks thought war was simply too expensive anymore, such that the start of the 20th century was thought to have seen the “end of wars.” Boy, were they wrong!

So what does this all have to do with my original thought about “finding a place?” Where does one belong in this world we’ve now inherited? The only answer I can give is that I have forsaken this world, I want no part in the “modern” world. I simply want to follow Jesus, and do what He wants me to do. Does that mean I’m giving up on technology, or that I don’t want a “job?” No, of course not. The fact that I have no job right now means that I’m still trying to figure this all out. I do NOT want to be “caught up” in the “job” craze or cycle of ever-increasing demands for resources (gadgets) but at the same time I must have some of those gadgets to live and survive. There is a tension in other words. We, all of us, are caught in this “scheme” of needing modern technology to survive, but at the same time needing to shun that in order to love one another. Perhaps shunning technology is not a good term, perhaps we must channel technology to make sure that it’s doing the work The Lord would have us do.

This is coming out like a stream of consciousness because of the fact that’s what it is! I have no clear idea on all of this, other than the fact that I resent being “pigeonholed” by society into some meaningless job, where I’m just like a cog in a gear churning out some “product” that benefits mainly those at the top, and those at the bottom very little. We passed into the post modern world a long time ago, as evidenced by the ads we see on TV all the time for the “New and improved” whatevers out there. There is nothing new under the sun Solomon said. He was right! It’s all vanity, a chasing after the wind. In our post modern world it’s Madison Ave. trying to get us to spend every nickel in our pockets to make the rich get richer, and our lives only incrementally better.

How much better are we with “instant news?” With the ability to search zillions of web pages at the click of a mouse? Perhaps email is an improvement over any previous forms of communication, perhaps. The telephone is a wonderful tool, but do I really need the thing buzzing, chirping and beeping at me all day long everywhere I go? What is it I really want and need in this life? As I said, I need to do what Jesus told me to do: “Love my neighbor.” In order to do that, I must not be distracted by meaningless trivia, but I must intentionally find out what my brother needs and try to help him with those needs. Intentionality, that’s a key concept. If we go through life “accidentally” (like modern scientists would have us think, everything flows from causality, all is cause and effect) then we truly miss the point. I cannot go upstream if I allow the river to keep pounding me downstream. I must swim and swim hard to get upstream, to go against the current. The current of this world will beat us down into nothingness, in no time at all – unless we intentionally swim against the current of this world!

With that in mind, I made the decision to volunteer to go to Haiti, to be part of the effort to rebuild down there. My efforts won’t really count for much, but at least I’m not just being a “cog” in some vast piece of machinery, instead I’m intentionally being used by Jesus to help my brother and sister with their needs. I choose love. While this is still probably not clear to a lot of people, I hope many will understand that being motivated out of love and intentionally choosing to love others is _not_ a job, it is joy!

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