Rendered Fat Content


Harry Brodsky, Tomato Pickers, 1938
"It's always a fundamentally unfair fight …"

All insistences that we're a HardWorking people aside, I'd rather not have to work that hard. I'd feel a member of a minority if I didn't look around me. As my brother used to ask, "You working hard or hardly working?" My honest response would be that I was hardly working. I feel fortunate to have found so-called work that seems more calling than indenture, so even engaging long hours in it hardly feels much like working. I believe that even clever Yankees found ways to leave their Pilgrim forebears' HardWork behind, creating passive income streams to replace brow sweat and aching backs. Few seem to aspire to careers solely consisting of HardWork, but most might consent to a period of it in the firm belief that they'll eventually graduate to become one of those shiny-seated suits hardly working in the front office.

Still, some HardWork remains.
Portions of any contract demand more brawn than brain engagement, and there seems no way around these elements. Even if it constitutes little more than five percent of an effort, it takes a greater toll than its fair share, for that five percent seems to outweigh much of the remaining ninety-five. HardWork brings tedium to otherwise enlivening toil. It takes a real toll and deserves more than what might otherwise seem its fair share of avoiding. It tends to become that five percent that remains undone for ninety-nine percent of the duration of the effort, willfully forgotten until cornered in the final few remaining minutes. It burdens the responsible shirker, though, and does not seem to ever completely disappear; a haunting until. However minor its overall volume in the larger scheme of everything, it brings the darkening cloud to the picnic and won't let anyone really forget about its presence.

The arcane process by which I turn my daily missives into finished book-length works serves as my HardWork these days. I must copy and paste from two opposing sources into an orthogonal third, each of which carry their own unavoidable complications, quirks, and abiding mysteries. I need to relearn the process anew each time, and I tend to only finally figure out how to actually do it as I'm nearing what would have been completion, had I not found then that I needed to go back and redo each step performed leading up to that point of realization. I need to keep rather too much in my processing buffer to reliably flawlessly complete even a single iteration of this work, and assembling each book involves ninety iterations. I cannot successfully hypnotize myself and successfully complete it. The reward for completion promises a thorough final copyediting pass, a casual crawl across a cactus desert promising scrapes, thorns, and severe sunburn. You might imagine how warmly I anticipate this HardWork.

I might spend more time trying to find a workaround to avoid this work. I struggle to reframe this obligation so that I might transform it into play, much in the way that I successfully imagined my way through actual laboring jobs I'd performed in the past. The guy picking tomatoes all day does not experiencing picking tomatoes all day, for he's very likely managed to imagined himself away from the rock face and into some more satisfying alternative space. He might be composing songs or imagining writing overlong love letters to his family back home or any of ten thousand alternative occupations while he appears to be simply picking tomatoes. Those who tote barges and lift bales avail themselves of such escapes to experience HardWork draped in more satisfying colors. The hardest HardWork somehow prevents these essential escapes.

You can tell when I'm facing down some genuine HardWork, for I will appear to be immersed in a definite funk. I know for sure that once immersed, my fantasy lives will reliably kick in, yet I still hesitate entering. I will struggle to outsmart the numbing assignment again, and inevitably utterly fail to successfully sidestep the engagement. My foot dragging will scuff my boots without improving my quality of experience a mite. Once in, I might soon find myself subvocalizing anthems to social realism, feeling every bit the proletariat, and even, eventually, reveling in my sweat-drenching presence there. The real reward will come once the laboring's done, after whatever trance I induced to get through the worst of it, when the memory still seems fresh and rewarding, for I will feel a survivor then, not an oppressed proletarian. This sensation will last until I begin anticipating the next piece of HardWork stalking me again.

The hardest HardWork seems to be that work required to reclaim and recover some lost sense of self. Following trauma or overwrought drama, I might feel wrung out and wasted, and feel sorely tempted to wallow for longer than a decent interval. Eventually, life's necessities demand some actual presence of an authentic me again, and then some genuine HardWork begins. Reconstructing an authentic presence in the shadow of a perhaps well-deserved, prolonged absence. Rebuilding trust in self. A long list of simply must-dos emerges and demands undivided attention again. Turning up the television won't eliminate these sacred responsibilities, only brave engagement will. Trusting a previously proven untrustworthy self. Reaching out to some not yet proven trustworthy hands. Taking some self-enhancing stand and vigorously defending it. These constitute harder HardWork than twelve hour days cutting cane. We engage in this work hoping that we will not ever have to engage in it again, but suspecting that we might. It's always a fundamentally unfair fight we initiate to regain that sense of self capable of performing HardWork again and again and again and again. Amen.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver