Is Hard Work Valuable?

Is it worth it?

Today I did nearly an hour of labor. I cut some trees, picked up rocks and put them around a planting area and generally walked around a bunch during this. So ya know, classic laborious activity.

But after I was done I had a mixed feeling of (mostly) exhaustion and…pride?

To give some context though it wasn’t because I sweated a lot, moved physical objects or generally took time out of my day to do it. It was mostly because I had had a guilty (sort of) conscience about not doing this work before. See, even though I did this work it had been work I was supposed to do for a while for someone. But for various reasons (depression, Porcfest, hot temperatures) I kept not getting around to it. So doing this work was quite a load off for me mentally.

So does this mean hard work actually can be valuable?

The slacker in me says almost always no. Unless our interests are so involved in it that the effort seems non-existent then the hard work probably won’t be worth it even if it’s for someone else whom we care about or have made promises towards, etc. The slacker ethic does, in the end, put our own individual energy and consumption of it over other people’s needs. And certainly in some contexts using it can mean being a bit of an asshole. I don’t necessarily think the slacker ethic should always be applied everywhere and always but I’ve certainly got nothing against generally trying to preserve energy and being laid back. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times that call for a lot more.

But the rest of me (the realistic in me?) says that a lot of effort, time and resources can be put to good use and a satisfying conclusion.

So the conclusion here was that I did some work for someone that helps me out right now with food and housing and I felt bad that I wasn’t giving back. And so when I give back I am explicitly signaling that I value what they do for me and that their value of me is appreciated via giving my labor to them. This seems to me to be a fairly straightforward positive thing to do. Perhaps the term “valuable” is a bit loaded but overall it seems like this sort of relation would foster mutual positive benefits and developments for the relationship in question.

For example, in my case, I am relieved of my psychological guilt of not helping someone else (this is internalized guilt by the way, mostly not externally imposed except may through a inconsistent reminder on the other person’s part whereupon I do way more to guilt myself than they do), they feel like there is less work to do now and other important projects can be worked on and did I mention that they pay me a little bit too? It’s not a bad deal at all, however much the slacker part of me wants to protest.

On the other hand there are surely circumstances where hard work isn’t valuable. By “valuable” I mean to say something that is of great personal import to a given individual. So the “hard work” I did for places like Kohl’s and WalGreen’s weren’t really rewarding for me. They didn’t benefit me apart from some abstract in-the-future paycheck that I had to look forward. I had some relationships (minor ones) with my coworkers but they didn’t really make me feel connected to the institution itself.

Of course, my disconnect wasn’t just based on the work itself but also the environment. It isn’t as if I am the biggest fan of corporations, bosses, hierarchy, the state-capitalist economy that exists now and so on. All of these preconditions for becoming a part of this workplace don’t inspire much in the way of happiness or even contentedness. It just spurs distrustness, rebellion and so on. I don’t have any real reason to be interested in or agree with the rules that others have dictated to me and that I have minimal control over. And for this submission I get a measly paycheck that barely helps me survive? Not exactly a rewarding experience.

But even then, even with all of those things I sometimes would get temptations or inclinations to feel pride when I did a bunch of work or did it within a given span of time .Granted, these little spurs of pride would vanish as I quickly remembered that I hated my job and didn’t give a damn about the place I was working for. But why did I still get this feeling of pride anyways? I don’t have any big elaborate answers honestly. I do think that it could be a general psychological reaction that has been drilled into us since birth. That a lot of work and a lot of rearranging of physical matter (especially under time-constraints) is something to be celebrated and celebrated regardless of whether you were really interested in the given activity or not.

Although I don’t remember any particular thing that anyone did to me when I was young to inject this Puritan myth of work being always good for its own sake. But then again my memory of my childhood isn’t the best and when I think of this Puritan myth I can think of (as silly as it may sound) video games that always reward us much more if we do way more than what was expected of us. Especially if it is done under a time limit or something similar. But then again video games are typically voluntary and fun activities so this isn’t the best mental association to have or to make.

In the end, I took pride (though that doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoyed) the hard labor outside as opposed to the retail work because my relationship in the former had way more immediate, pleasant and libertarian dynamics the latter. Even if outside labor isn’t my favorite thing in the world if it’s based on fairly equitable relations that are negotiable and done for friends or loved ones then I’ll obviously have much more interest and be more invested in it.

So to answer the title, sometimes.

Please excuse me while the slacker in me dies a little, thank you.

3 thoughts on “Is Hard Work Valuable?

  1. Pingback: The (Lazy) 100th Post Spectacular! | Abolish Work

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