Workers of the world... relax!
April 15, 2005 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Why work? Why not play instead? And live simply somewhere life's a calm pleasure? And don't forget to blow your kids' college funds on vacations.

For further inspiration, there's The Abolition of Work and The Play Ethic.
posted by iffley (30 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
As easy as it would be to start snarkin' away on one of the many subjects of the above links, in the spirit of the general drift of the post I would like to agree that yes yes more play less work, travel a lot with your kids...even a little of this would go a long way toward breaking the nasty and brutish cycle of work and debt and bitterness and overwhelmedness many of us have fallen into.
posted by kozad at 2:31 PM on April 15, 2005

It's a shame the image is broken now, but a long time back Jeff Vail made a very interesting post about this. And is one of the links on my own blog.

All in all, it's hard not to see that the Protestant work ethic has got its priorities bass-ackwards.
posted by jefgodesky at 2:36 PM on April 15, 2005

Oh yeah. proselytize this. Over six billion people on permanent vacation.
posted by sourwookie at 2:40 PM on April 15, 2005

The list of non-colleges schools one can go to seems not very encouraging if you plan to get a job. Why not, if you want work but not college, learn plumbing or electricity or carpentry--at least they can not outsource those jobs.

The thought of living with the !kung seems not overly attractive to me...but then I am spoiled.

A distinctuion ought to be made between the many hours of work put in by Americans and the shorter work day and longer vacations in many countries in Europe.
posted by Postroad at 3:03 PM on April 15, 2005

Machines of loving grace...

There's work, and then there is "work", in the make-work sense. So much of the "work" people do is so utterly useless and inexcusably pointless it makes my head spin.

Fuck work, make art. Work will not make you free, freedom makes you free. America's "Protestant work ethic" is going to be the death of us all if we're not careful.

We're not talking about the sort of "work" one does to survive and sustain, but the sort of "work" that is an abomination to everything it means to be human.

To the opposition of this I have slackadaisically dedicated my life to doing... as little as possible. And it's been real nice, for the most part, and have few regrets.
posted by loquacious at 3:05 PM on April 15, 2005

Here's a gem: Sarah Nelson, creator of The Leisure Party, decided to take a "sabbatical" of sorts, and has taken the site offline.

How does one take a sabbatical from leisure?
posted by fixedgear at 3:18 PM on April 15, 2005

I'm between contracts so for the past couple of days I've been waking up late, working out pretty strenuously, then taking a long walk and shooting pool in the afternoons... perhaps I should just practice more and turn pro. Sure beats working.
posted by clevershark at 3:48 PM on April 15, 2005

The way this society is set up now is struggle, struggle, struggle with no meaning and no purpose and no reward. Punish the innocent and reward the guilty. Seems like we all run around bumping into walls, picking ourselves up and running off to bump into another one.
I rebel by helping my fellow human being in a fairly compassionate job (sorry, can't say on the internets, may get canned).
Lately I've been working on taking up photography, learning about architecture and just trying to enrich myself culturally (if not spellingly).
In addition I have lived in a shared house for a few years now and saved ton's o' money 'cause of that. Yes it can be stressful sometimes, but knowing I can salt away three-quarters of my salary for myself rather than rent is pretty spiffy.
posted by mk1gti at 3:54 PM on April 15, 2005

The title looked familliar. That's because it's from a previous MeFi post on the Work Less Party.
posted by scottreynen at 4:10 PM on April 15, 2005

work is just a means to an end. work should not be an end unto itself. it seems to me that too many people cannot even conceive of a satisfying life without work.

people who escape work aren't necessarily lazy. i'd say they're lucky.
posted by xz at 4:16 PM on April 15, 2005

If our children live at home, and work part-time, they could easily earn enough to pay their own tuition at a local college.

Oh... you silly, naive people...
posted by papakwanz at 4:45 PM on April 15, 2005

I'm now an artist at a game studio. I think that means... I win!! :D
posted by zoogleplex at 5:59 PM on April 15, 2005

Actually, papakwanz, they're right. Granted, I had to work 2-3 jobs at any given moment, and I dropped out after two and a half years because I couldn't get good grades and simultaneously pay for the classes, but it is possible.
posted by davejay at 6:39 PM on April 15, 2005

(also, I found a really good full-time job that looked really juicy in comparison to part-time school/work, and never looked back.)
posted by davejay at 6:39 PM on April 15, 2005

I know people working through college too. They go to state schools, live at home and take semesters off to save up. Some have loans, some don't. So yeah, tuition's going up, but it's still possible. (Not enviable, but possible.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:45 PM on April 15, 2005

Fuck work, make art.

fuck work. fuck art. fuck vacations. fuck college.

fuck anything that moves!
posted by 3.2.3 at 7:30 PM on April 15, 2005


It's possible now, sure. Easy? Hell no. An in 5-6 years when their kids are old enough to enter college, it's going to be a whole hell of a lot harder.

Plus, what kid is like "live at home while in college? HELL YEAH!" It's not exactly the time of your life when you want to be sleeping across the hall from your parents. And the line "Family vacations are among the happiest times together" also seems a little delusional to me. Maybe my family was just exceptionally dysfunctional, but family vacation did NOT equal "happiest time," especially when I was 12-16 yrs old.
posted by papakwanz at 9:44 PM on April 15, 2005

Bertrand Russell: "In Praise of Idleness"

We'll all have plenty of free time when the robots take over all jobs.
posted by spazzm at 12:51 AM on April 16, 2005

I distrust the perpetually busy; always have. The frenetic ones spinning in tight little circles like poisoned rats. The slower ones, grinding away their fourscore and ten in righteousness and pain. They are the soul-eaters.

When I was young, my parents read me Aesop's fable of "The Ant and the Grasshopper," wherein, as everyone knows, the grasshopper spends the sum­mer making music in the sun while the ant toils with his fellow formicidae. Inevitably, winter comes, as winters will, and the grasshopper, who hasn’t planned ahead and who doesn't know what a 401K is, has run out of luck. When he shows up at the ants' door, carrying his fiddle, the ant asks him what he was doing all year: "I was singing, if you please," the grasshopper replies, or something to that effect. "You were singing?" says the ant. "Well, then, go and sing." And perhaps because I sensed, even then, that fate would someday find me holding a violin or a manuscript at the door of the ants, my antennae frozen and my hills overdue, I confounded both Aesop and my well-meaning parents, and bore away the wrong moral. That summer, many a wind­blown grasshopper was saved from the pond, and many an anthill inundat­ed under the golden rain of my pee.

I was right.
QUITTING THE PAINT FACTORY: On the virtues of idleness
By Mark Slouka - Harper's Magazine – November 2004 issue
posted by airguitar at 3:01 AM on April 16, 2005

A fair and just democracy requires a well-informed, paticipatory populace. When all one's efforts have to be devoted to making ends meet, one can only deal with larger social issues in the most superficial, shallow sense. The modern wage slave is the new feudal peasant, too crushed by everyday labor to rule & protect themselves, all social consciousness reduced to merely parrotting the pretty lies of the self-serving nobility.

As silly as it may seem, free time may be vital to the future of freedom.

posted by PsychoKick at 5:06 AM on April 16, 2005

I hate this kind of stuff. Plenty of people have careers that are very meaningful to them, and it doesn't mean that they're all slaves to the man. People find meaning and happiness in a lot of different ways. If your way is to eschew the professional world and go on a lot of nature hikes, that's lovely for you, but it doesn't make you more enlightened than people who work.

PsychoKick, the problem with your argument is that there are plenty of jobs that deal with larger social issues. I agree with you that people who are struggling to put food in their kids mouths often cannot afford to be socially active, but they don't really have luxury of working less. People on the other end of the scale, who are just working excessively to afford a bigger tv are probably not the kind of people who would be socially active if they only had more free time.

As for the people who are spending their kids' college fund, I think that's pretty crappy rationalization to spend the money on things that they (the parents) want to do. Not helping out with their kids' college to the extent that they can is going to make their kids' lives tougher in the long run, and likely to restrict their options and choices down the road. Family time and experiential learning are important, but a vacation isn't really necessary for either one.

Also, I bet dollars to donuts that their kids haaaaaaate those vacations.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 6:48 AM on April 16, 2005


I liked his post on singing well...
posted by rory at 8:39 AM on April 16, 2005

PsychoKick, the problem with your argument is that there are plenty of jobs that deal with larger social issues.

Ah, but that's exactly my point. The greater problem is that for whatever reasons, "dealing with larger social issues" has been marginalized into specialized jobs, as opposed to remaining something accessible to the everyman.

Essentially, if you can't make a job of it, you've been effectively silenced.
posted by PsychoKick at 12:02 PM on April 16, 2005

I hate this kind of stuff. Plenty of people have careers that are very meaningful to them, and it doesn't mean that they're all slaves to the man. People find meaning and happiness in a lot of different ways.

Them's the lucky ones. I should know, I'm one of them. No way I'd keep the hours I do if I weren't.

But we're a decided minority, and my good fortune doesn't change the fact that we've stuck some 99% of our species with a hard, wearisome existence, perpetually preparing for a someday that never comes.

What's the real end of Aesop's fable of the grasshopper and the ant? A soulless world of a million toiling ants, working towards no end but another day of labor, without joy or music to break their endless misery. Is that preferable to the grasshopper's winter?
posted by jefgodesky at 2:04 PM on April 16, 2005

Milling, toiling ants. And caterpillar piles. Sometimes I wonder if there's ever really going to be hope for the flowers.
posted by loquacious at 7:16 PM on April 16, 2005

Every corporate job I've had wants you to be the company, live the company, love the company. It wasn't bad enough that they treated you like dirt, but they wanted you to thank them for it.

In one instance, the CEO of one (now bankrupt) company insisted we call a legislator on a bill that would effect the company. When someone openly questioned him, his answer was that he was educated on the issue which is why we should do what he says (implying we weren't). It was made very clear that we better believe what was good for the company was good for us. (even though that particular bill was not in the consumers i.e. our best interest).

That was also the same job that I had to come up with a valid excuse as to why I didn't want to buy service from my own company - a manager who was also a friend informed me the list of people who went with competitors products was sent to her boss.

I was salary at a few of those jobs, and was expected to happily give up free time when the company beckoned. If I groused about a meeting being outside of my normal hours, I wasn't a team player. Since I didn't have any kids, that only meant bosses, managers, etc . . . expected I didn't have any obligations outside of work. I frequently described myself as a wage slave, and saw just what a fucking loophole salary was to the labor laws that had been passed to protect workers from abuse by their employers.

I now work at a pet store. I was making several times what I am making now working in computers. Many people think I've gone crazy or am doing this because I'm desperate for work. I quit a good paying job to go work there because I couldn't stand being a wage slave anymore. I don't necessarily have more free time, but on the other hand, I go to work every day loving what I do. Every now and then I think about how broke I am and how I should go back to a regular wage slave job, then I come into work and spot for a coworker cleaning the alligator pit, or find out we have ducks nesting in the outdoor pond display, or that our seahorses had babies and I was put in charge of trying to rear them, and I realize I just can't go back.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:58 PM on April 16, 2005

Late to the party, but: Brilliant post. I especially love Go Animal and the Play Ethic. Animals AND humans learn by playing when young. Why ever stop learning?

It's a stupid goddamn Human World, inn'it? Like Terry Gilliam's Brazil.
posted by Shane at 11:06 PM on April 16, 2005

The problem with Aesop's moral, it always seemed to me, was that he failed to explain how a grasshopper was supposed to metamorphose into an ant.

There's ants and there's grasshoppers. If you were born a grasshopper, you can't change that. If you were born an ant, you were born into the majority, a majority that for the most part is envious and intolerant (not to say you personally are envious and intolerant).

Grasshoppers just want a little respect. Not every grasshopper will grow up to be a Mozart, but much, probably most, of our cultural heritage was created by grasshoppers. Grasshoppers keep looking up from their grindstones and daydreaming. It drives the little ants crazy but, dammit, someone's got to do it.

But if you really want to work less because you're just a lazy ant...well, you know who you are.
posted by bricoleur at 4:17 AM on April 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

I have to disagree. Why is it wrong to be a lazy ant? Because the rest of the ants tell you that you need to keep busy to be happy? Why, so some CEO can get rich? Most people work in dead end jobs pursuing the American dream when all their doing is making it happen for someone else. Neat trick on the part of the wealthy, but I dare say it doesn't benefit the individual much. and this isn't like your work is going directly to benefit the community, so the lazy ant isn't hurting others like it would in a real ant colony.

And what is lazy anyway? Reading a book? Watching tv? Spending the day outside gardening? Going for long walks on sunny days? Reading mefi? For many, the definition is doing something other than working. How messed up is that? The best times in recent memory were when I was unemployed right after the dot com bubble burst, and I could pursue interest and hobbies I never had time to when working. My days were filled with reading and learning and doing, and it was more rewarding than any job, even the current one I love so much.

Working harder to get ahead is a fallacy at most jobs anyway. Those that get ahead are themselves lazy. They take credit for the work of others, they use charisma, deceit, or nepotism to get ahead. Meanwhile, the people doing all the actual work are too busy, you know, working, to engage in the office politics to get ahead. Yet many people believe that if they work harder, they can get some kind of reward out of it, falsely believing their measly cost of living raise (which often doesn't actually match the cost of living increase for that year) means their getting ahead.

No sir-y bob, being a lazy ant isn't all that bad. Lazy ants unite!
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:35 AM on April 17, 2005

I have to disagree.

Not at all. I was being facetious. A premise of the fable is that by definition, ants are not lazy. So if you think you're a lazy ant, hey—you're not an ant; you're a grasshopper. You don't have to be a Mozart or an Einstein to be a grasshopper. You can just be a reg'lar old grasshopper, like me. Our purpose in life, such as it is, is to deflect the wrath of the ants from the Mozarts and Einsteins. Spread out the stigma, that's our strategy.

By the way, we're getting together to moon the ants on Friday.
posted by bricoleur at 2:05 PM on April 17, 2005

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