Rendered Fat Content


Johann Theodor de Bry:
De ezel op school [The Donkey At School] (1596)

"I never come close to producing my best until I leave the paycheck out of the effort."

In this culture, my culture, we speak glowingly of The Professional, as if it occupied the highest rung of some hierarchy of goodness. Amateur might be just fine but it's never the quality a professional might produce, as if making money, getting paid for performing, somehow sanctifies an effort. Interesting how most of the effort expended in this culture cannot be properly classified as professional. We cede our most important work to amateurs.

I was once a professional.
I cannot claim to have been more proficient at anything then, with the exception at getting paid for something. Nobody pays me anthing to do anything anymore, a situation I ultimately insisted upon. I noticed that the quality of my work seemed to increase in direct proportion to how little I expected to be compensated for it. My highest quality efforts were always gratis, often essentially payment themselves. The notion that quality of satisfaction might have been improved by compensating me for those efforts seems laughable. Commerce never was my purpose.

As a professional, I puzzled plenty over my performances. Most might have been best classified as practice, sometimes rehersal. I never managed to know how to do whatever it was that I did before I began and I cannot claim to have ever been able to explain how I managed to produce anything I ever produced. My professional life was not as advertised. I was never once proficient, and felt more Amaficient, I suppose. I engaged as if I was not expecting to get paid or else I couldn't produce very well. Between imposter's syndrome and general unknowns, I never once believed myself worth any paycheck. Recognizing the necessity of earning a living, I kept my secret but still felt guilty every second I engaged in paid work. I never understood how anyone could see anything in me that might be worth paying good money for. I certainly couldn't.

I would vote for an economy based upon other that compensation. I'm more of a totally free market capitalist where we might measure capital in enthusiasms. We'd pay ourselves first, lavishly, inevitably much more than we were actually ever worth. We'd lavish respect to create the prosperity we desired. Relying upon others to pay me seems like a dandy way to sidestep prosperity. I wonder how it might be if we conspired to make everyone unimaginably wealthy such that the familiar market mechanisms stopped working, so nothing could be chosen simply because it was what one could afford. What would I choose if I firmly believed that I could have anything my heart desired, unencumbered by anybody's ability to pay for it? I think this scheme might prove to be the end of greed as we've known it.

We become Puritans to prevent anyone from ever entering the kingdom of heaven. We become moralists to identify the immoral among us. We become capitalists to prevent most people from becoming wealthy. We become doctors more to heal the sick than prevent illness. We become pilots to paint the sky with contrails. We become sailors to prevent the ocean from penning us in. I suspect that we make all this up because we never knew better. We designate proficiency because we have no more random means to descriminate against each other. I never come close to producing my best until I leave the paycheck out of the effort.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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