Posted by: thealienist | June 14, 2011

Efficiency

I am becoming worried about the American way of life.  Worker productivity is going up and up.  Students are using (and sometimes abusing) stimulants so that they can study harder, take more hours of class, and make better grades.  Less time is used for “non-productive” activities like vacations, family time, recreation.  In short, more of us are discovering (and being victimized by) “efficiency.”

I don’t have any problems with the idea of using time well.  I want the businesses I work with to do a good job and avoid excessive waste.  My car should get good gas mileage.  Employers should not have to pay for Facebook or even (gasp!) blogging time.  On the other hand, I strongly believe that humans should not be viewed as machines to be fine tuned for the benefit of others.

The average human is like a station wagon.  Sometimes we are used for work — sometimes for play.  Sometimes we are engaged in domestic tasks, and at other times we work long hours for business trips or long vacations.  Still, we need to run at moderate speeds, and we need frequent stops and regular maintenance.

Too often, our society tries to convince us that we are formula one racers.  We think that we should always run at top speed, and only slow down to guzzle more fuel, throw on new tires, and speed back to the race.  But while there are some few people who can run like this, most of us are station wagons!  We race through the day and take work home with us at night.  We feel guilty when we take time off for vacations.  We fear the repercussions if we should tell our boss, “No,” when he asks us to take on additional work.  We worry that poor economic conditions will overtake us if we don’t sacrifice more to satisfy our employers and prove our value to them.  We go to work earlier and stay later.  We work multiple jobs.  We struggle to keep up with our peers.  We drive our poor station wagon into the ground.  We sacrifice our relationships.  We isolate ourselves to find some short time for rest.  We grow weary and tired of our jobs.  And as we race through life, we occasionally get a glimpse of real life slipping through our fingers.

Our culture has told us to “work harder.”  I think it is more important to “work hard enough.”   Work hard enough to be proud of your effort.  Work hard enough to put food on the table.  Work hard enough to keep a roof over your heads.  Work hard enough to meet your needs and sometimes treat yourselves to your wants.  Then stop.  Look around.  Enjoy your family, friends, and neighbors.  Smell some flowers.  Play.  Love.  Rest.

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