We had a wonderful invitation to speak at the Adelaide Film Festival recently.
It was at the launch of a great little film, After Work, by Erik Gandini, which transverses what happens to ‘work’ post robots, post AI, post Universal Basic Income, and post a whole bunch of things we haven’t even begun to think about.
At mwah. we’ve long positioned work as two things:
- Your opportunity to participate in and contribute to society and the economy, and
- A basic human right – Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Article 23 is more fulsomely,
Then along came ‘After Work’ (the movie), and added to a million conversations we were already having about robots and AI, societal and wealth divides, and whether people want to work at all, or whether it’s purely transactional in order to get a wage.
And all of that, got us thinking about ‘what actually is work?’.
What does it mean for each us, if anything at all?
Is it important or irrelevant?
Looking at both people who hate their work, people who love their work, people who work voluntarily, people who refuse to work even when paid well, and people who would do anything to have the opportunity to work at all.
And then for my birthday, one of clients-nee-friends (the best ones blur) gave me a little book, with a tabbed page talking about work in a totally different way that I had considered.
It got me thinking. I hope it does the same for you.
An excerpt from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Penguin Books, 1923.
Then the ploughman said, Speak to us of work.
And he answered, saying:
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
When you work you are a flute through who heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
Which if you would be the reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?
Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of the earth’s furthest dram, assigned to you when that dream was born.
And in keeping yourself with labour, you are in truth loving life.
And to love life through labour is to intimate with life’s utmost secret.
But if you in the your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow shall wash away which is written.
You have told that life is darkness, and your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.
And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge.
And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work.
And all work is empty save when there is love; And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from the heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seed with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if you beloved were to eat that fruit.
It is charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit.
And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.
Often I have heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, “He who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, in nobler than he who ploughs the soil.
And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is mot than he who makes the sandals for our feet.”
But I say, not in sleep, but in the over-wakefulness of noontide, that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass.
And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by how own loving.
Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better than you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms for those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angles, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.
I don’t profess to align to everything there, but I love hearing different thinking.
And if you enjoyed that small piece, here’s the link to the rest of the book, because Mr Gibran has a lot of other interesting things to say.
And to the Wikipedia page of the book, with a little about the man who wrote it
Love your thoughts and anything else that is making you think about 'What is work?"
After robots, AI, Universal Basic Income, and a whole bunch of other things we’re not even beginning to think about yet, what is work? And here’s the trailer for After Work to get you started.