“Working Life” is an Oxymoron

Because of our material needs, work forces us to give up our freedoms. Our life is no more — if it ever were — a flourishing tree of possibilities. Work is destitute, the death of choice. Thus, if life is choice, as many seem to think, then “working life” is an oxymoron. The more we work, the less we get to live. This is the real reason why work is harmful. Even if isn’t physically or mentally taxing, work hurts us existentially. It restricts our freedom to be anything but bored.

Thanks to Reader Rad for directing our attention to a superb article about the realities of work and boredom by Andreas Elpidoru, a philosophy professor who writes whole books about boredom.

So how can we cope with it? Professor Elpidoru says there are three main ways. One, which most people do, is to simply accept boredom:

We can submissively accept it. The need to work isn’t going away and not everybody can afford to quit their job or reach FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early). Work is many things. It is tiring, stressful, depressing, painful, and even dangerous. So what if it is also boring?

Another is try to make it bearable in a Good Life for Wage Slaves sort of way:

We can take breaks, change our routines, spice things up, or gamify our tasks. We can even demand distractions, entertainment, or a Google-like workspace with pool tables, bowling alleys, and other perks. Even if we can’t get rid of boredom altogether, we could at least try to experience it sparingly and between activities that are fun.

Or we can use Escapology:

The lack of satisfaction that is endemic to boredom is its greatest tool. We are pained by boredom and precisely because of that, we are pushed to undo its cause. Boredom, in other words, is a powerful motivator. It’s a catalyst for change: an emotional force that propels us to pursue projects that could eventually relieve us from the absence of satisfactory cognitive engagement and the suffocating constraints that work imposes on us. This is no small feat, of course.

No indeed. But given the three options, is it not the most exceptional?


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

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