Friday, April 30, 2010

Why I Work

Some of our friends here don't work because their partner has a job which brings in enough money for the house. Other friends are working in low-paying jobs which they love, but that means they also need "state subsidies"--government benefits--to help pay all the bills.

Back in the States, some of our friends are out of work, and don't want to be, but they don't want to take that Walmart job yet. I can understand that. So they start eating into their savings, if they're lucky enough to have any.

But, speaking as one who's currently lucky enough to have a job, I know that at times I have worked all day, for little or no money, to create something or solve a problem which ultimately seems sorta minor. Sometimes I look back at my day and wonder, 'Is that all I got done?'

That's why I'm wondering 'why?' this morning. Why do we do it? Obviously, most of us big people have to work to pay the bills. But besides that?

I think my parents taught me that one should try to find something one likes to do, then try to get someone to pay you to do that. That is still what I believe, what I tell young people who ask me, 'What should I do?' This idea is underneath my only answer to the work question. We work because we want to. We like it.

I work because I get a kick out of doing something well. When I'm teaching or taking pictures or writing, and it's going well, it's like I'm pushing beyond myself, like a kind of transcendence. I forget time, my body, most everything and I'm just...doing my thing.

Sometimes I go farther. The other night I had to get out of the house. I didn't want to go to the movies, or to the Prater to play pinball. I got out onto the street, started taking pictures, felt the spring air on my skin, and two hours later, I was standing at a train station, staring up at the moon. I had been making photographs, and loving it, but now I just gawped at that moon like a little kid. I felt the pure pleasure of just looking at something sort of mysterious. I was beyond beyond myself. Just being. I wasn't taking pictures and I wasn't working. I was just acutely aware of the beauty of a moment. I was just alive.

It only lasted for a minute. But it was really something.