Friday, April 04, 2008

Furious Madness for Work

"Cannot the labourers understand that by over-working themselves they exhaust their own strength and that of their progeny, that they are used up and long before their time come to be incapable of any work at all, that absorbed and brutalized by this single vice they are no longer men but pieces of men, that they kill within themselves all beautiful faculties, to leave nothing alive and flourishing except the furious madness for work."~~ Paul Lafargue, The Right to Be Lazy (1883)
The more I find myself calming, observing, tasting, feeling, breathing with awareness the more loudly shouts the strange disconnect between human beings and their natural and spiritual environment. We all know it is so that technology and 'progress' leave us scrambling to keep up. We know that it's easy to get caught up in all the junk to the detriment of our health, our children, our sanity. We are moving too fast. It's not good for our environment, our country, our children, our eternal selves.

A life lived in the fast lane means blurred scenery.

I have a memory burned into my heart and mind. Tom is standing in the musty corner of his folks' garage a month after his dad died. He stands slump-shouldered before his father's long work bench, beside a gigantic, homemade, wooden toolbox, near cupboards full of tools, equipment, guy-stuff. From behind I watched my normally kinetic husband stand still. Not wanting to intrude I wait. And watch. Heartbroken.

There are the deceased man's joys - his tools and projects. There hovers the man's son - too much a stranger in a life filled with the 'furious madness for work.' In the midst of mute, inanimate objects Tom wells up with sadness that he didn't know his dad very well. He knows his dad's opinions, recalls that he preferred to be in the garage working on a wood craft or repair of some sort. Anything rather than spend time with his son who'd been an unexplored mystery to him for nearly fifty years. Work was salvation. Work was validation. Work was honor. Work was truth, justice, and the American Way.

And work was an escape, a hideout - a cop out. Tom's dad had become pieces of a man. I believe he loved Tom in his own way. The barrier of expression stood between him and the cultivation of the father/son relationship that should have been. Unable and unwilling to bust through the awkwardness, he allowed solitary overwork to kill within himself 'all beautiful faculties, to leave nothing alive and flourishing except the furious madness for work.'

There is a solid place for work. Everyday. It's the soil from which we grow. Balanced with inwardness and openness which take many forms work makes a whole person.

Work overdone makes for a person 'absorbed and brutalized by this single vice.'

Personally witnessing the effect work-addiction leaves behind I shout from the roof-tops for parents everywhere to consider the final outcome. Consider what is left behind - and what is not.


Mike S said...

Tom's dad sounds much like my adoptive father. He was kind and at times loving, but generally apart and happiest working on his own at something. I finally realized, when he started relating childhood stories near the end of his battle with Alzheimer's, that he was much the same as his father had been and never really understood being a dad. Luckily for me I grew up on a pair of adjoining farms with two very 'fatherly' surrogate 'uncles'.

Seems Tom has learned how to be a good dad by not repeating his dad's actions.

One thing my uncle instilled in me was the value of spending time quietly watching the wondrous place we were given to inhabit.

Cherie said...

You're a gentle soul, Mike.

I think you have a good point about your dad never understanding what being a dad meant because of having the role model he had. That's a real problem for men, and certainly true about Tom's dad.

You are blessed to have had your 'uncles.' Tom had a grandpa who fit the bill and taught him the tenderness he needed from a man, and the care, interest and understanding - plus the good natured fun.

"...the value of spending time quietly watching the wondrous place we were given to inhabit." A very great gift you were given. Thanks for your comments here, Mike.

Sandy's Notes said...

Gosh Cherie, the way you write is so beautiful. Clear and precise; left me wondering more about Tom. Dad's roles are funny, so important and so impressionable.

Cherie said...

Thank you, Sandy, very much.

Tom's life story is quite unique and interesting. I keep telling him he needs to get it written down. Maybe that's a job for me, huh, once the kids are gone? We'll see...

Annie said...

The last line took my breath away Cherie. Very very important words. The whole post is very very important. Thank you.

Cherie said...

You're welcome, Annie, and thank you.