Monday, February 26, 2018

Note to Self: You Don't Have To Do It All Yourself

Inner Council Letter #2

Dear One,

You’ve always known, at some level, that you’re here on this earth for purposes that aren’t evident in the standard path choices on offer by your culture. Many well-intentioned people tried to steer you into jobs and other roles that weren’t for you. That strong will you have? We knew you’d need it to resist the onslaught of pressures you’d face. That’s why you’ve got it. We could never allow you to remain silent for long about your conscientious objection to this structural violence and injustice called “earning a living.” We know it cost you dearly to speak out. But it’s part of why you’re here. We need you. We need the person you are. The work you do matters.

It took a long time for you to make sense of those early visions you received, and to shape them into something solid - something your full self could get behind. It took even longer for you to learn to trust and consistently follow the path led by what the poet William Stafford called “the golden thread that all writers must follow for their work to be real.”

We’re proud of you.

We know what it cost you to stick to this path with tenacity, even as your marriage ended, your ex absconded with your half of the funds from the sale of the house, and the legal system failed you in your time of need despite your best efforts.

We know what it cost you as your former life was burned to the ground, relationships with people you’d called friends for 20 years were severed, and you were cast adrift in a country with a woefully inadequate social safety net.

We know what it cost you as you graduated with your post-bac in accounting at the height of the great recession, set out to get a job when next to no one was hiring, endured round after round of being told you weren’t trying hard enough, and then started a house cleaning business.

We know what it cost you when you spent years embracing your nerd roots and diligently studying web development - making your long-departed techie father so proud of you! - only to give up job-hunting in the field when you crashed headlong into ageism and sexism in tech.

We know what it cost you to abandon your hopes for graduate school in philosophy when you discovered that 1) nobody cared about philosophy of leisure or even took it seriously, and 2) there was no university, program, or mentor anywhere in the U.S. under which you could study the “field” you yearned to study: liberating work from employment.

We know how much you struggled under such intense pressure from your culture. Especially when all you were hearing from us the entire time was:

“You must resist the conscription of your time into the service of capital. You must resist the colonization of your time. You must resist getting a full-time job so you can do your work. You have books to write. You are the only person that can deliver them the way they’re needed. You must trust that the world needs to read these books just as much as you need to write them.”

We know.

We also know you are listening deeply, heeding the visions fully, and trusting the golden threads now. Finally the timing is right. Even as you tremble in your boots, you step forth into the unknown, emboldened by clarity of purpose. You can feel the difference, can’t you?

This is the path toward “being the change you wish to see in the world.”

This is the path away from “earning a living.”

You’ve always known the truth of this in your bones and flesh, even if you couldn’t yet express it, and even if most of your culture doesn’t recognize those embodied epistemologies as legitimate. Now you’re realizing something else you’ve always known:

You don’t have to do it all yourself.

In fact it’s just the opposite. You must defy productivist values, resist “earning a living,” and do nothing.

When you do nothing - which is a very active state of being, despite the tarnishing of its reputation by Puritans - you give the larger intelligence room to speak to you and through you, and reveal the next step. Help is available. You’re not alone. As Nan Wishner writes:

“…something larger will move through you if you invite it. Glimpsing this experience is tremendously freeing and invigorating.”

As you know, you can help create the conditions for that larger intelligence to speak through the practice of incubation. Solitude. Silence. Endarkenment.

But there’s no map you can study in advance. That’s not how this process works. That’s why you need courage and a strong will. The next step along this path only becomes apparent after you’ve boldly gone forth and taken the previous one. When you act on those golden threads - and sometimes, paradoxically, acting on them means doing nothing - then you step onto a path unique to you. You step onto a path that remained imperceptible from where you once stood.

Yet the path has always been there to guide the steps of those who are willing to ask, listen, and trust their inner guidance.

Welcome! We’ve been waiting for you. We knew you’d make it.

The time will soon come for you to take even bolder steps. You’ll be ready, even if you don’t feel you are. You are up to the task. We believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself.

We’ll guide you all the way.

We Love You,
Your Inner Council


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Notes To Self is a personal narrative letter series delivered by my inner council, offering guidance along the path toward being the change I wish to see in the world and the path away from "earning a living." Topics include non-doing, unlearning shame about "laziness," nurturing ancestral connections to motherlands, and more. The first and second letters in this series are all-access issues.

Get-A-Job Nonsense is a series in which I unpack and critique lazy bums rhetoric, do-what-you-love advice, the notion of financial independence, and other pernicious lies of job culture.

On Doing Nothing is a series of philosophical reflections on decolonizing time, non-doing, building a leisure ethic, leisure as resistance, and envisioning a culture of leisure.

The Deep Sorcery of Colonial Capitalism is a series in which I unpack and make visible the structural violence of “earning a living” and the ways it’s normalized.

Feminist Valuation is a series making visible the unpaid and emotional labor that undergirds "earning a living."

The Anticareerist Bookshelf features book commentary and quotes focusing on unjobbing, dejobbing, and building a culture of leisure that can be accessible to marginalized people.

Slothy Awards is a series recognizing and appreciating writers for their contributions to my anticareerist thinking over the 20+ years I've been studying in this “field” toward a world beyond "earning a living." (Thanks to Heimlich A. Laguz of Elhaz Ablaze for the title Slothy Awards.)

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