There is a human need for markers of our presence. Individually we are vulnerable to bewilderment in the face of the hazards and mysteries of the world. Our physical presence and energy is small and fragile. The presence of our bodies among other objects in the landscape is not our best nature. Yet, among objects, we are not sure what we might be and should be. Everyone feels some insecurity about knowledge and understanding, about whether the best experiences and all the dangers have been noticed and considered. We look for opportunities to make a mark distinctive enough to represent what we might be and should be. Each looks to others for a comparison. An interconnected human collective charms individuals by demonstrating a power to be present brilliantly in the teeth of the material world.
Imagine a desert nomad in ancient times seeing the pyramids at Giza in their new perfection with facets of polished white rising out of the rock and sand. The sight might inspire terror or ecstasy but, no matter which, there would be a recognition that this represents both a material power to shape the world and the power of invention to conceive an original presence for intelligence, mountains with an absolute perfection of form. Egyptian pyramids were not simply amazing monuments but tombs conceived to insure the survival after death of the Pharaoh. Death is at the core of the human sense of having a tenuous presence in the world. It inspires creation of marks meant to be eternal, in contrast to our individual ephemerality. The Egyptian pyramids are an extreme example but such projects are characteristic of human communities. We have individual and collective ways of crafting things that look like nothing in nature. We polish surfaces and make edges heroically regular, uniform, purposeful, and simple or ideal. Arrangements for producing the human mark can be powerful charmers.
Kinaesthetic/ Metabolic Shock, Sweat, Dirt, and Repetitious Tedium
However, accepting heroic art and architecture as the legitimizing force for crime families requires a strictly selective editing of historical knowledge and of the personal awareness of physical work. It has been customary, culturally structured, for people to unload tedium, fatigue, discomfort, and filth onto others when they can. Based on this, tedium, fatigue, and filth, ordered onto you by someone in a more powerful position, are defining qualities of the experience of work. The individual’s ability to work has been brutally expropriated for this purpose through slavery, serfdom, corvée, military conscription, the press-gang, and the job. Civilization is an arrangement for expropriating the work of most people so a few dominants can be relieved of work in order to have the leisure to decide and control what work is done. It is also an arrangement to perpetuate rewards to the heirs of the culture of domination. Crime-family alphas, trying to shape the world without working, have contributed various forms of coercion and violation to the organizational structures of social entities. These structures take on a life of their own by being accepted as ‘the way we live in our group’ by children brought up in that environment.
For the whole of history people have hated spending time and vitality working under command. This applies to people in industrial societies who take jobs for a living just as much as to people in agricultural societies who work the landlord’s land. So much of the work commits the worker to metabolic shocks as well as sweat, dirt, and tedious repetition.
Sweat is a result of being hot, muscles heated from high effort lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, or moving quickly; from overcoming or at least straining against heavy resistance. The feeling of that strain, as well as the feeling of depletion that is part of it, has something like the shock of a personal loss. Enough repetition of the strain adds actual pain to the experience. To work is to get tired and continue to get more and more tired. Dirt is uncomfortable, irritating, and disrupts a person’s appearance by seeming to break down the difference between a human and the local geology or compost. We humans attempt to distinguish ourselves from the ground that continuously pulls us against and into itself. This is a feature of our dignity and we lose that strand of dignity when we have to endure dirt. Prolonged repetition is mind numbing and soul numbing. It requires the denial of mental inclinations to keep watch, to include a variety of sensations and observations in a process of orientation, to reflect on memories, to imagine, plan, invent, and play. The impulsive self rebels against repetitious tedium and so does a higher thinking self.
Elimination of those burdens of work would be a drastic improvement in human life. We long to live in a practical state of Grace. Nevertheless, being adult normally means you work. You take care of the shop, the garden,the house, the children. Most of the time an adult in our culture is at a job, working for pay, or at a domestic chore: cooking, cleaning up after meals, shopping, tinkering with household maintenance, doing laundry, going from place to place on errands; struggling to keep fed, housed, healthy, and socially attached.
More work on the way …
Copyright © 2012 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.