In Praise Of Meaningless Work


“Meaningless work is the soul of being in the body of nothingness.”

For much of my working life, I have been a strong advocate for meaningful work. I've claimed that work quality improves whenever personal purpose gets involved. I've helped people imprint on the greater good and encouraged them to find their project within their project assignment. But today, I want to sing the praises of an under-appreciated kind of work, meaningless work.

Meaningless work is an act of selflessness. It is work divorced from tangible return, separated from productivity measurement, innocent of intention, innovation, and efficiency. It is work for work's sake. Unexamined action. Very human. Very Zen.

A meditation where thoughts do not float consciousness away, but remain present, just hanging around. No mugging for the virtual camera, no showing off for whatever passes for company.

When I am my work and my work is me, we transcend meaning. Meaning is beside our point, reward unthinkable. We, my work and I, become one, a dance of joy between hand and surface, between time and soul, between mine and mindlessness.

I labor to exhaustion, not to become exhausted. I work because the work needs doing---or not. I am not investing my time or consciously expressing myself, just being here---not there, now---not then, the purpose perfectly tautological, explaining nothing at all. Meaningless work is the soul of being in the body of nothingness. No one will long remember, not even I will notice that time and action performed in perfect silent harmony and that time, for an unmeasured moment, stopped moving in any discernible direction and simply was. Is. Always will be.

The unexamined life doesn't need to be lived or desire to no longer be, it just is. Perfectly comfortable naked, unselfconscious, unconscious, alive. Our analysis of the situation never was the situation. Meaningless work thrives without commentary, judgment, or critique. It is, without fussing about isn't. It ain't ain't, either. Neither. Or both sometimes.

I pose today, understanding that those who throw their rational mind between themselves and their sight might only see me working slowly, when I'm merely dancing with meaningless work, slow work. No time clock. No lunch break. No promise of a cold one at the end. No meaning higher than my weathered boots boost me. No calluses worth complaining about. Not stalking supper, but nourished nonetheless.

I am scraping an endless wall, indifferent to progress. Distinctly different duress than the working-class workingman blues. I will wear my Frankenstein pants, hand-sewn knee where the Henry Fonda rose nearly tore through me once, when meaning detached my mind. I will not create poetry, but be it. Those who watch (yawn) or later appreciate what someone must have done can find meaning for themselves, if meaning seems important then. Me, I will simply be: between, within, beside, atop, and as without as I can be. Not even becoming for a spell, meaningless and being.

Sing the praises of truly meaningless work.

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