Last night I had a very clear, culminative dream. The way I can best start to transmit its meaning to me is this: have you ever been to a summer camp? An overnight or weeklong or more variety? I worked at one of these once and it was a wonderful experience, but I didn’t want to stay and I didn’t choose to come back. For many reasons, mainly because it didn’t flow for my life, but also because of this, and we have a word for it, campy sense that I a got. Campy is when there is a strong presence of “this is the way we do things around here because we have a tradition of doing things this way”, no matter if they seem strange to the people now following the rules, no matter if it actually doesn’t make sense anymore, is halty or not fluid in present day. It creates a sense of special belonging, which is great. But, if too rigid, can be constricting and even damaging. Churches also have practices with this type of strange traditional pattern: “we do it this way because our forebearers taught us this, because it’s written in our Book, etc”. We give it the term cultish.
My dream further revealed, finally very clearly, an innocuous culty and campy feature of our current cultural paradigm in regards to work. I was raised in the US, in a suburb of Indianapolis, IN. My grandfather, from Iowa, grew up speaking German in the house. Pictures of my ancestors on that side all depict stern, smile-less faces on rigid, well-kept bodies with little adornment or room for fun. My grandfather fled the cattle farm for the city. It was such a hard life, he said, and he didn’t like the work or space on top of that.
I was raised with this certain generational work ethic: in the Germanic tradition of work hard, work perfectly, there is always so much work to do so always keep your hands busy (an idle mind or hands are the devil’s workshop, after all). My parents were kind and I played a lot, but when something was called ‘work’ or took on the label work, count on it to have the above qualities.
Unlike my grandfather, I have retired to the farm lifestyle (or will, quite soon) because I love being close to and working with the earth. Yes, it is very hard work, trying to have a large scale production farm, yet I choose it at a different scale and find that it suits me. I have also visited upcoming and rooted, established ecovillages with the intention and hope of collecting data of how humans can make it within new paradigms, how we can live successfully with joy, creativity, togetherness on the earth, while still getting things done. Work with a new feeling, a new context, and new possibilites.
Okay, so now back to the dream. It depicted a mix of these ecovillage experiences meshed into one. An aside: I have also found that though ecovillages are often avant garde, cutting edge, etc the deeper/deeply (read generationally) embedded cultural patterns often run silently beneath the surface, like swift, underground streams- often in the form of ideas surrounding work, the costs or necessary exchanges or investmentss of work. And as we know, things which run unseen have the potential to run the show, i.e. The shadow of work running works show!!
So let’s get down to it, work, in the context I’m referring to is the story that “it is something we have to get done otherwise we will starve directly (those potatoes didn’t get planted) or we won’t be able to get food on the table (something we do to make money to be able to buy, exchange something for what we need to survive).” At some point work is also for buying wants and not needs, but I digress.
In my dream, i was being welcomed (slightly forced) or inducted into this group of people. They were all very excited about being a part of the group (bring in culty/campy feel, and this isn’t a negative connotation at this point- read: like the joys of summer camp or, for those who like it, the feeling of first belonging at a church or other select group).
I was inducted into this camp and certain tasks were expected of me. Everyone was brainwashed, in a way, but joyously brainwashed, or so brainwashed they didn’t even realize they were brainwashed and in fact defended the system that brainwashed them. For example, certain tasks started to be expected of me in the dream. They were handed to me with a smile, but there was the knowlege that if I didn’t do them, the smile would leave and I would get a talking-to. And the others upheld this reality uncompromisingly believing in the very system putting these strange , non-sensical demands on them. This is the best way, the way things are, everyone laughingly believed. Yet, as at cults as well, everyone is all smiles until someone starts to not follow the group´s rules or go their own way.
And so it was in the dream. Everyone going along chocked full of the sweet-on-the-surface melody of This is the way things are, it’s the best way! Even though everyone was clearly overworked and not in their joy when working. But they were not admitting it to themselves and defending it, in fact, and calling me out as wrong. The pinnacle of the dream happened when the leader of the group climbed onto this high rock and started sweeping it, yelling the whole while how much work there was to be done. It was clear she was so tired and shouldn´t be on the rock at all, but everyone was so brainwashed into believing that Of course the work must get done and This is the amount of work there is and it is a necessity; it is natural that no one questioned her jumping on the rock. In fact, they admired her more and in their hearts felt a twang of admiration , glee and championing her.. And as she´s reading me the right act for not falling into line with all their work ethic, it seems she flamboyantly and almost on purpose falls from the rock to the ground and slips and lands on her butt and bounces cuz she has a rather large butt…
And even though it was obvious she made herself fall, she started yelling at everyone for being the cause of her fall and it was because everyone wasn’t working enough.. It made everyone jump into line, but I just left because it was absurdly obvious she had slipped on purpose to further manipulate everyone.
If we don’t work in the culture, or go by our own internal work ethic, it’s sometimes said, Oh, you´re lazy! Lazy being one of the worst adjectives used to describe someone from the Germanic traditions. It is akin to being cast out from the group. Akin to being useless. Tarred and feathered.
Let’s see, I also want to say that Ini and I have been traveling for 3 months now in Peru. People work very hard here but you’ll also often see them just sitting in their fields more often. Chewing coca, chatting with friends, etc. And rarely do people work alone. My point is this: their work ethic is more relaxed: they walk slower and are not so driven toward the end goal that they don’t take care along the way. They go slower and have companions. They show us another way to get work done. That sometimes,, in walking through the marketplace or through town, it is more important to connect with friends and neighbors than to hurry head down or isolated in a car, even.
Ini and I have also started in the works a new business and it has been filled with Fun, Excitement, Adventure, The Joys of Creation and Creativity- every step of the way. This is a way we can make money in a way that we feel good about and are excited about. We love our idea and the way it’s taking shape. From dreaming of it, to enacting it, to organizing it- it’s all been fun. And amid all of this, I’ve been waiting for the ball to drop. Oh, but this is work, there will be a time when it becomes struggle or dampens or is hard and ugly, because this is work, this is business and business isn’t fun or can’t be fun all the time! This is what something inside of me seems to say. Which has caused me to write this in order to challenge it. Maybe there is a different way to work. Maybe the woman leader in my dream created the story of all that work and brought everyone else along into her story and because she was so powerful and they already believed it a little, they lost their inner voices´ instruction and became brainwashed defenders of the system. And maybe that’s why work has gotten such a bad rap- it’s gotten such a bad name because it had the germanic story intertwined with it.
You don’t deserve joy all the time
You´re here to strive and struggle
You are serving a punisher god who drives a hard line
Work hard and earn your worth!
Ew! Germanic Church roots!
Here´s another work story:
Maybe work can be full of Passion and Beauty and Fun and Joy. Maybe we can let go, as a culture, of defending the story of work in which work is something we Begrduge, Hate, Suffer, Undergo to survive… and create a new story of work. New stories, cuz it will look different for everyone.
And another, a practical example, this time:
I lived at Helen and Scott Nearing´s seaside home in Maine earlier in the year. Helen and Scott were known as pioneering radical homesteaders in the mid to late 20th century. They build and maintained stone homes and huge gardens without any previous experience. One thing I take from their work ethic example (and they are quite exemplary, so look them up!), is that each time they went to the beach, they would bring a stone back. As I said, they built their houses and other structures out of large and small stones. In order to not overwhelm themselves, they would retrieve stones each time they went on a journey. Perhaps they never had a very hard time of ´work´when they had to put their heads down and collect stones for hours at a time.
I’m not saying that this never means no strain- carrying rocks from shore to house sit is difficult work; going around haggling for good deals on goods for our business is challenging and sometimes feels like hard work, but there is a deep spring of joy beneath it all pushing me forward, because I believe in it, because, underneath it all, I love it and am exited by it. This work feeds me.
I hope everyone can find work like this. That Ini and I continue to. Work that we deeply love and feel. No more selling of the souls in order to be here on earth. We´re children who have rights here, to be InJoying ourselves and reaping the blessings. But first, we have to believe we are worth it and know our dreams and visions are worthwhile, are completely worthwhile. Wholeheartedly believe this.. That’s the key forward….
And until then, until we wholeheartedly believe in ourselves , very powerful external and generational forces, even within our very cells, will have sway over the forces of the people, which contain all of the power to change the situation. We are the key. Each of us turning into all of us: if only we believe.
Blessed be XOXO