On one front of the culture wars, the counterculture has achieved great success.
Its attack on the Protestant Work Ethic has made “work” a four letter word. We have been taught that the meaning of life, and therefore real living lies in vacation, fun, recreation, leisure. We believe, almost instinctively, that work and life are directly opposed.
It follows logically that if living is the opposite of working, then working must be akin to dying.
We heard it in the agonized attacks against the Tiger Mom. How dare she work her children so hard? How will her daughters ever learn, Bill O'Reilly complained, how to have fun?
For a classical and Freudian attack on the work ethic, see Norman O. Brown’s book, Life Against Death.
This being the case, when we look at Elisa Doucette’s article, in Forbes-- of all places-- we knowingly nod assent at her title: “Are You Using Work as an Excuse to Avoid Life?”
Think about it. If this means anything, it means that when you are working you are not living. Or better, you are not really, really living.
When you are on the job you are not enjoying the thrill of lying around the swimming pool inhaling chlorine fumes and working on your skin cancer. When you are fulfilling a task that will provide you with a livelihood you are avoiding a walk in the park, a trip to the zoo, an afternoon at the theatre, a sultry Sunday morning with your beloved… you name it. All of those activities count as life, but work, the kind that allows you to enjoy those activities, is the opposite of living.
But, simply speaking, aren’t you alive, thinking and breathing when you are fulfilling a task or an obligation? Isn’t your mind functioning at its optimal form when you are writing the report, interviewing job candidates, overseeing the manufacturing operation or negotiating a deal?
Do you really believe that all of those activities deaden your soul?
Besides, as everyone knows, retiring from the world of work, thrusting oneself full time into the world of golf and tennis and walks on the beach is not only bad for your health. The research suggests that it is likely to kill you.
The enemies of the Protestant Work Ethic will not like it, but staying on the job will give you more years of productive LIFE.
Which brings us to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. After running the city for a dozen years Bloomberg surely deserved to slow down and smell the petunias. He earned the right to some productive leisure, some real living.
He could even have done some charity work.
He tried it, but he did not like it. He did not like staying at home, even with his partner Diana Taylor.
Yesterday he explained that he was going back to work at his eponymous company. In a phrase that will surely be denounced as grossly insensitive, to say nothing of sexist, he said:
… the alternative, in my case, is staying home and talking to Diana about feelings.
If that doesn't get you back to work, I don't know what would!
Of course, it was tongue-in-cheek. Yet, it shows that Bloomberg does not owe his extraordinary business success to therapy. In fact, it suggests that therapy will undermine your success.
But then, Bloomberg offered a piece of wisdom:
Just remember, happiness can never buy money.