Happy in Our Work

To put the last first …

Yes … can’t always get what we want
Yes yes … we work as unto the Lord
Yes yes yes … sacrifice, live, die, etc.

But … what for?

How then shall we live and die?


Saito says it’s this.

To End All Wars — what Prisoner of War Camp 16 might look like at the end of the affair — is a too-rare Christian-made upgrade on ‘be happy in your work’:

Unless a corn of wheat fall
into the ground and die …

And of course that sounds like ‘work as unto the Lord’ — which itself a’course is also just fine as true counsel for our living and dying …

Depending on the Sower in this scenario.


500 years of German protesting, not to mention Bismarck, kindergarten, and two World Wars have tended to … obscure the answer to that query.

Actually, few ask anymore. Half-millennia goes by and stuff starts to get assumed.

It’s farcical now and not the fun kind, what DF Wallace usedta call ‘bullshitty’ — signaling he knew the collegian collegial lingo. Not that he didn’t mean it — but he didn’t say ‘farcical’ either.

The too-common Christian downgrade now is an unthinking unfeeling ‘be happy in your work’ farce — comedy as tragedy, no fairy tale in sight.

Once I was at least minimally grateful in hearing it to know the guy saying it knew it was bullshitty — and he was a thinker and not even one to care if there was collegiate connection. He said bec … sigh … it is what Christians say bec it is what everyone says bec 500 years.


Shut up, he explained.
Be happy in your work.


Student in a writing class once said he wanted not nothing more than but nothing other than to sit on a beach in Mexico and write.

That’s it.

Granted, he was in his redundantly resplendently stupid 20s but take a moment to take the position and as we do I’ll add he didn’t mean it as something to do with the decade.

For forever.

So I said, OK, here’s how: no mortgage, no other debts to speak of, in fact precious few possessions at all, and while we’re at it … no wife.

There’s like six guys in Mexico who own everything and we’re not one of them. This half-dozen have the land and the jobs and consequently all the people who aren’t them.

[America has a couple dozen who own everything but our population is roughly thrice Mexico’s and we’re over-achievers, so the ratios work about the same.]

It shd come as no surprise the Germans were at one time interested in Mexico, at least if The Wild Bunch is to be believed.


What we live for and what we die for shd be the same thing.


He was cool with that, and that works, tho I hate the word ‘cool’, and tho I the word, maybe that’s exactly what goes here — phrasing vaguely meaning something good but really just whatevs someone wants it to be.

Point is not whether he’s young and silly; perhaps he was. Point is, if we set life up to match our aim … we can do the same thing, which doesn’t mean sit on a beach in Mexico and write, any more than doing Thoreau means moving to a cabin in the Massachusetts woods.

Being Thoreau isn’t geographic but psychographic, to use the marketing speak. It’s not land or lake but how one does life.

Thoreau’s line, ‘most men lead lives of quiet desperation’ if fairly well known but a bit less so, be the Interweb any judge of it, which it surely considers itself to be on living and dying and everything, is how he also said most men in the long run ‘hit what they aim at’.

Try those on together.

We don’t wear it well.

If the silly yoot’s true yootness was to sit on a beach and write all the rest of his days, the way to go about it wd be roughly as I said.

Dunno if he ever made it — kids those days, huh? — but that’d be about the way, give or take a few cervezas.

It’s OK if our South Border Writer’s Beach is entirely different. Does this need to be said? It’s kinda the whole point here. It’s so much an obvious point the cerveza sellers have gotten hold of it, too.


So … aim.

Thoreau’s line … the kid’s line … what’s your line? What’s mine? Ours.


Is it a statue erected by the state, with relevant bits including

Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired

Satisfying both his employer and his union, by his actions by the by.

A’course not employer nor union nor actions were ‘his’ — and cldn’t be bec the work itself never was. It’s just called that, by concentration camp commandants among others.


Aim comes from who we are so knowing who we are comes before aim.

If we don’t think and feel for it, we end up wearing new clothes.


The problem with ‘be happy in your work’ is, as ever, not what’s said but what’s meant. What’s meant is not ‘joy in labor truly deeply you’ but ‘find some kind of okayness in,’ — redundancy alert — ‘bullshitty farcical activity someone else chose for you bec we need more widgets and Lunchables.’

It’s not that ‘be happy in your work’ isn’t correct, it’s that it’s so right that if it were actually happening, it wldn’t need to be said. I note non-controversially it isn’t happening, which is why it does need — ‘need’ — to be said.

‘Be happy in your work’ is goddamn right.

Problem comes when what we do isn’t ours.



Highsmith Archive
Library of Congress

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