A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Time of Our Lives (by guest blogger, Max Weissman) and My Response

The Time of Our Lives by Max Weismann

The book of Genesis tells us that we are made in God's image and the Garden of Eden was a paradise where all needs were met in abundance. There was no need for toil of any kind, in fact it could hardly be considered a paradise if toil was necessary.

Yet for most of us, work or toil occupies a considerable portion of our time. All of us who work for a living contrast that with our free time for leisure. Most of us have to work or toil (8± hours a day) for subsistence compensation, we need to sleep and take care of our biological needs also consuming approximately 8 hours a day. This leaves about 8± hours a day left for what?

And Plato's Socrates at his trial in the Apology tells the court, ...you will not believe that I am serious if I say that daily to discourse about virtue, and the other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living...

And Aristotle in his great book on Ethics says, ...It is not unreasonable that what men regard the good or happiness to be seems to come from their ways of living. The mass of people regard it as being pleasure, ...they appear to be quite slavish in choosing deliberately a life suitable to beasts, but their view has some support because many of those in high places share their tastes.

Perhaps to say that happiness is the highest good is something which appears to be agreed upon; what we miss, however, is a more explicit statement as to what it is. Perhaps this might be given if the function of man is taken into consideration. For just as anyone who has a function or an "action" to perform the goodness or excellence lies in that function, so it would seem to be the case in a man, if indeed he has a function. But should we hold that, while a carpenter and a shoemaker have certain functions or "actions" to perform, a man has none at all but is by nature without a function? Is it not more reasonable to posit that, just as an eye and a hand and a foot and any part of the body in general appear to have certain functions, so a man has some function other than these? What then would this function be?

Now living appears to be common to plants as well as to men; but what we seek is proper to men alone. So let us leave aside the life of nutrition and of growth. Next there would be the life of sensation; but this, too, appears to be common also to a horse and an ox and all animals·

Then comes Mortimer Adler, who defines toil as work that no one would do if they were not compelled to do so. He goes on to say, There is nothing intrinsically good about toil, neither in itself nor as a means to a good human life. However, this is mitigated by two extrinsic considerations, which cast some measure of favorable light upon toil. Toiling is a more honorable way of obtaining a needed livelihood than stealing. It is also a more dignified way to take care of one's economic needs or the needs of one's family than receiving a welfare handout. To this extent the person compelled to engage in toil preserves his self-respect by doing so.
We all aspire to live a good life. But unless we think that the money we earn is the sufficient means for living a good life, Aristotle reminds us that the life of a money-maker, is one of tension; and clearly the good sought is not wealth, for wealth is instrumental and is sought for the sake of something else.

How are we to answer Aristotle's question: Does man have a function, and if so, what would this  function be? Can we state it at least in a general way or outline as to what it is that we ought to do with the time of our lives?
My Response:

2011 is an eternity from paradise. In this "vale of tears," as my late Professor Foley used to describe it, no toil, no money -- except for those fewer than 1% of people who own sufficient income producing assets and have no need for toil. George Orwell, in Animal Farm, wrote that "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." Touché!

Few people are aware of efforts to pass The Capital Homestead Act. If more people understood the plan to pass the Capital Homestead Act in 2012, more people might join the handful who organize at an annual rally in front of the Federal Reserve Building.
Last year, this little group, which photographers mistook for Tea Party activists, crashed the tea party.

If many of us, myself included, often act like beasts of burden, we have perfectly good reasons for doing so. For many adults, 8+ hours of leisure time is a fiction: factor in time for preparation, commute times, personal and family maintenance, plus other modern necessities, and that 8+ hour figure is cut substantially. Ironically, although technological efficiencies may be increasing leisure time, is it only because full-time employment is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain? Who, exactly, is benefiting from these changes?

On Friday, I returned a call to a multinational company that was willing to condescend to grant me an interview for a part time job (weekends and evenings) in an industry for which I have 20+ years of experience. In those 20+ years, I served as an at-large member of the Board of Directors, an operations manager responsible for logistics in a warehouse pumping out $2,000,000 per month, a purchasing agent, a sales person, a credit analyst, etc. Starting salary offered for the part-time sales associate job: $10.65 / hour. The "hiring event" happened to be closed. Another sign that I need to pursue that Master's in Education despite having no idea how to pay for it while continuing to make the mortgage payment?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs explains that most people tend not to examine life in times of scarcity, when basic needs for survival are not being met. Extraordinary people, however, respond somewhat differently:

The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance. (Victor Frankl, 



Personally, I reject Socrates' response. No hemlock tea party for me. How could I drink the hemlock after working with an ID (Intellectually Disabled) 20 year old last week at a retirement community? After completing his job of sorting popsicle sticks by color on a sorting mat, my brave 20 year old friend exclaimed, "I will never give up!" We sang the tune from Rocky, fist pumped, and giggled.

Mortimer Adler's description of toil as a convenient way for people to "preserve self respect" reminds me of what happened to me on Friday. I accepted a sub assignment in a local middle school, where all math teachers were out of the building. During math, throughout the day, the math subs dropped off students in the lecture hall and went back to their classrooms. Personally, I read all day. "An easy day," "nice to get paid for nothing," etc., were some of the comments I heard from embarrassed administrators.

"I would have preferred to work with students," I replied.