Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Work. Job. Career. These three words have evolved to have very different meanings over the thousands of years of human life.

"Work" implies getting something done. The very basic of the idea, a task, perhaps menial, perhaps enjoyable. These days often termed as a "dirty four letter word".

"Job" is the next step up from work, a place where you go to earn money. It is often neither enjoyable or passionate, but it "pays the bills."

"Career" insinuates formal training, personal interest, climbing the corporate ladder, investing your time. Many people feel defined by their career and display a certain amount of pride in their chosen field.

Ultimately, though, all three things boil down to fulfill the same thing: the basic needs of life. Whether I'm doing work, performing a job or fulfilling a career, I am earning money to put a shelter over my head, clothes on my back and food in my tummy.

This thought has made me pause and consider the lifestyle our culture has come to embrace. Many people go out and spend 40+ hours a week earning money to buy these necessities. Doesn't that seem like an unnecessary middle step to you? First you spend the time working, then you spend the time in the stores buying, then you spend the time fixing and cleaning the home. What if we simply worked for the necessities in the first place?

I know, I know - completely archaic, right? I mean, our ancestors did that for thousands of years - thank goodness we have our modern conveniences that free up our time to enjoy pleasure and leisure.

Free time?

When was the last time you actually had "free time"? If you look back to "primitive" people's lives, it is thought they spent somewhere between 2-5 hours a day collecting and preparing food. Their simple dwellings were built by their own hands, completed within months (if it took that long). General tidying and upkeep went fairly quickly - even I could keep two or three rooms clean. Sewing became a skill they were so adept at that a roll of material could be turned into a dress, a pair of pants, a shirt, in a day or two. Granted, the material needed to be purchased, as did a handful of other things, but those people realized that direct trade was much more efficient than first working for money, then going out to spend that money.

I wonder then what my life would look like today if our family relied on these "primitive principles"? (Okay - I realize first I'd have to buy a little land, and endow myself with years of experience my family does not currently have. But after that...)

James would not commute an hour and a half into the city for his company. Work would begin right here in our own home and on our own land. Most of our time would be spent in the area of food - planting, harvesting, preserving. In order to "purchase" those extra items needed, we would like trade our famous family berry pie, or perhaps a music lesson or two. Maybe James is enlisted to perform at the local Christmas concert, or I help in the neighbours' children's school studies. No, we couldn't trade these skills for a widescreen television or a computer, but I think the community socials, neighbourhood gatherings, and family nights would fill what I could indeed call "free time".

I'm not working on a time-machine, here. In fact, quite the opposite. I think this could be a movement of the future, where jobs like "telemarketer" don't exist, and where essential careers like "doctor" are supported by the community. Then we could work 20 hours a week side by side with our family, instead of spending 20 minutes with the kids before we tuck them into bed at night. Our kids might learn the value of work and actually leave home before the age of 30. We would be satisfied with less, because that "less" was wrought with our own hands. And we might finally have some free time on our hands, to do with as we please.

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