Bored Without Work

I don’t know what to say to people that proclaim they would be “bored” if they didn’t have to work every day. I have to believe that I am just misunderstanding them somehow. They couldn’t possibly genuinely be saying that they are that empty, boring, and directionless as human beings. What do you MEAN you would be bored? I don’t think they grasp what that statement insinuates.

To me, when someone says they’d be bored if they never had to work again, it breaks my heart. Do they realize that means they have no personal motivation or interests to pursue? They really believe their heads are so empty that without someone else beating their back with a whip, they wouldn’t know how to move forward? They have no goals other than the ones set for them? I can’t imagine a sadder existence than that.

Also, have these people never been bored at work? I’m bored at work nearly 90% of the time anyway. Our system is set up illogically. We are forced to sit in offices for a certain amount of time regardless of how long it actually takes to complete the tasks we have for the day, leading us to actually be less productive as other (better) countries have demonstrated through shortened work days/weeks for their employees.

Maybe it’s more about the social stigma attached to not working. Perhaps these people have an image in their head that it’s either work 40+ hours a week, or literally sit on your couch 24/7 and watch TV. Capitalism has seeped so deeply into their psyches that they cannot fathom what it would mean to live for themselves. Maybe saying you’d be bored without work is a strange form of virtue signaling. I could never stop working. I have too much self-respect and am a motivated, productive person. I enjoy contributing to society. There is always the subtle insinuation that those who don’t work a 9-5 job do not contribute, which is obviously not true.

I personally think many peoples’ talents are wasted by the way our society is set up. I think I would be able to offer society much more value if I were able to spend my time as I pleased, working towards my own interests instead of struggling and exhausting myself in a structure set up by other people in which I simply do not fit. If everyone wasn’t constantly expending all of their energy stressing about money and working for other people, who knows what amazing contributions individuals would be able to make? Even if you already work in a creative field or are self-employed, wouldn’t it be nice to not have to take into consideration what other people want or what would make the most money? You’d be able to be more true to your own interests and creative ideas. You’d have so much more freedom.

It also saddens me to imagine most people seem to be unable to even conceive of activities other than work that would be fulfilling. Even if you enjoy the work you’re doing, like I do, I would still prefer to not have to do it. That’s not to say you’d have to stop either. It would just mean you weren’t dependent on it in order to feed yourself. Just that small change would inherently make the work itself more enjoyable. There have been studies that show even when you like an activity, if you’re paid for it, it becomes less pleasurable. Your mind begins to rationalize that you are doing it, not for the enjoyment, but for the money, which is less fun.

If you are someone who believes you’d be bored without the need to toil for our capitalist overlords, here are just a few of the myriad of options you could devote your time and energy to:

  1. Volunteer work
  2. Activism
  3. Learn a new skill/hobby
  4. Learn an instrument
  5. Study a different language
  6. Go back to school to learn about a subject you enjoy
  7. Make art
  8. Spend more time in nature
  9. Travel
  10. Spend more time with family and loved ones
  11. Workout
  12. Practice yoga/meditation
  13. Invent something
  14. Clean
  15. Home improvement projects
  16. Write
  17. Read
  18. Draw

I could go on, but you get the point. There are a limitless amount of things that you could do besides work! You really wouldn’t find any of these alternative activities adequate to keep you from boredom? Or are you just considering some of these things as work? If you don’t have to do it for a paycheck, it’s not work. I don’t mean literally any amount of physical or mental exertion when I say work. I mean traditional employment. There is a big difference between doing something because you want to and doing something because you have to, even when it’s something you love.

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The Density of Suffering

There is this weight
that presses me down
into the thick clay earth
the undercurrent of awareness
of all the souls left unseen
the immensity of the masses
subjected to bone shaking suffering
the surreal recognition of
the world somehow still turning
despite the violence that lurks
just below the surface
the colossal cruelty of humankind
how can a system so monstrous
continue to exist without consequence
how could justice ever hope
to tip the scales back from
what we've collectively done
what we continue to do
the inexplicable gravity of grief
overlooked and unacknowledged
left alone with this deep knowing
an anchor of unbearable anguish
I am helpless to lift from those I love
the gut wrenching screams of billions
kept hidden behind closed doors
cannot distill the poison these sins
spill into every particle of air
apparently no peace can prevail
until we all choke
Be Their Voice – Protect the Innocent Original, 2021

Character 3

Artifacts of bright laughter
fingers tracing patterns
in thick layers of dust
Joy shackled to a clock
love and freedom rations
doled out in small doses
light dancing unwitnessed
in the sharp art of crystal shards
hidden behind thick walls
the hard geode of conscience
endless eclipse, sun over moon
arresting the rhythm of the tide
absence of sound that suffocates
sinking below the weight of still water
last sparking static of stagnant energy
the sweet perfume of slow death
sickening spirals of fragrant fog
escape open pores in the earth
unsustainable pressure
crushes my pearl into powder

Freedom

Love
an enormous expanse of field
is closed in a few playful bounds
a sacred innocence we can all recognize
the halo of protection found within
a mother's unconditional embrace

Curiosity
big black baby eyes gazing from behind a fence
cautious steps slowly closing the gap
gently leaning toward the world beyond
timid retreat into the shelter of the herd
ever watchful and wondering

Joy
silent laughter embodied by the sight
of swift hooves chasing geese through
the tall grass at the edge of the pond
the silly, light-hearted mischief of childhood
the ecstatic freedom of first movements

Grief
the unending low bellow of a mother
robbed of her beautiful new born child
no form of personification could mimic
the unbearable pain of this deep ache
sinking into the bones of all who can hear

Shame
how dare humanity shun and ignore
the inner experiences of other beings
a disgraceful denial of the inherent value of life
the relentless drumbeat of bound, bleeding hearts
demanding their unalienable right to be free

God Bless America

This country is a cancer
that disfigures the landmass
of North America

The natural wonders
we once lauded in lyrics
are defiled every day

There is a special kind of shame
that comes with celebrating
years of injustice and genocide

Gloating over our stolen home
as we are still unearthing
the dead bodies of native children

The constant reminder of
those that have died for us
with un-ironic exclusions

The bittersweet remembrance
of a little white Christian girl
who passionately loved her country

A tiny heart that swelled
with pride and gratitude
for the red, white, and blue

Innocence ripped away
unveiling the horror
of the truth

Today is a day of mourning
for reflection and repentance
for the atrocities of our forefathers

A god that would
bless this nation
is no god of mine

Last Rights

Insidious misogyny
slithers through the
sultry summer streets
shocking in its pervasive presence
across history and homeland

It's human nature to hate what
is strange and unknown to you
but to harbor such hatred
for your mother, your sisters
speaks volumes, shatters speakers

The incomprehensible nature
of holding down half of humanity
the horror of how many have learned
to hold themselves down as well
subconscious self-hatred

As I prepare to celebrate
the land of the free
my ears burn with the echo:
I have less rights than a dead body
a dead body has more rights than me

A corpse cannot be violated
even for the sake of another
regardless of gender
death is truly the great equalizer
my only opportunity for respect

I may have protected myself
from the violence of forced birth
but I cannot shield myself from
the knowledge that my only worth
is as an incubator

Each day I must immerse myself
in a world where I am not equal
play nice with my oppressors
as they penetrate every safe space
even the sacred shelter of my body

The egregious insult of a caged bird
being told it has autonomy
my new daily ritual of mourning
the innocent, trusting spirit that once
believed it to be true

Capitalism

Capitalism slinks through filthy city streets
with bloodied paws and heaving breath
snarling at the huddled masses
it had once offered hope

There are plenty of those
who still believe the lie
we were all promised
of possibility and upward mobility
productivity and endless progress

Hungry eyes follow trim and tailored suits
down the avenue of ivory towers 
chapped lips mouth the words
"if only I was good enough"
from sallow faces with sunken cheeks

The flurry of chaos
a flock of flapping pigeons
fighting over forgotten french fries
idolizing the eagles
they were told they might someday be

The sickening inward momentum
spurred onward by imagined sins
stealing the joy out of simple pleasures
productivity and profit
replaced purpose long ago

Corruption and greed infiltrate everything
every soul a commodity to be exploited and consumed
egregious inequality passed off as objective justice
sour, scornful faces point fingers
at the people who are suffering

It's your fault if you fail
the mantra of Manhattan
sowing self hatred within misfortune
the cruel optimism of the elite
blame handed out as bread

Don't fall for the fiction
that this system is fair
the land of the free is stained
with red blood, green bills,
and the rusty metallic taste of coins 

Fixation and Focus

fixation and focus
are very different things
fixation festers and ferments 
multiplies and consumes
the subject grows
until it suffocates

focus is freedom from distraction
submerged in the present moment
the soft flow of inspiration
over a thirsty soul
finally silencing
all inner doubt

there is no comparison
between the two 
though they seem so similar
at first glance
one state we chase
the other chases us

Connected

Why do I see this body
as the limits of my container
the pieces of matter that comprise me
continue on into the cosmos

even the air between you and I 
is saturated with shifting energy
carrying currents of information
through supposed emptiness

connection is everywhere I look
from the veins and tissues of this body
to the veins of mycelium and root systems underground
to the streams and rivers snaking across the earth

the illusion of separation is still poignant somehow
despite the new science that shows we are one
could I learn to feel beyond this form?
can I lift the veil of this life?

to recognize myself in all that I see
is to relinquish this unruly fear of reality
freedom is remembering a fate intertwined
uncovering a deep compassion for all of existence

To love myself is to love the world
to love the world is to love myself
we are inextricably intertwined
we are one in the same

Personal Responsibility Paradox

I’m sure by now everyone has heard about the information and research leaked to 60 Minutes by a former Facebook employee. This information came as no surprise to those of us that have watched documentaries about the issue such as The Social Dilemma. The bottom line always seems to be: social media is bad for our mental health and our society overall. But does it have to be that way? That’s the question a lot of people are now asking.

The perspective I’ve noticed a lot of people having is that AI and algorithms cannot be inherently bad or evil. They are simply a reflection of what humanity wants. If that ends up being violence and divisiveness, can we really blame the algorithm? Or should we be turning that microscope on ourselves instead? There is certainly a lot of nuance to this issue, but here is what I think.

The reason these algorithms are feeding us content that angers and polarizes us is because that is the type of content that gets the most consistent and reliable engagement from users. At first glance this appears to be the AI giving us what we want. But consider this: Facebook and other social media apps understand that even though we are more likely to engage with content that is inflammatory, that isn’t what we want. They don’t care what consumers want. They care what will make them the most money, regardless of the damage that it may result in.

Evolution has primed us to react more to negative stimuli than positive stimuli for survival. Our negativity bias is not a reflection of our relative good or evil as a species. If we ignore a positive experience there is much less harm than if we were to ignore a negative experience that has the potential to hurt or kill us. So we may have a more visceral reaction to seeing a child be hit by a car than seeing a fireman give a child a lollipop, but does that mean we prefer to watch gruesome tragedies? I don’t think so. We just pay more attention to them in an effort to ensure our own safety.

It isn’t that we wouldn’t engage with the platform at all if there were more positive content, it’s just that we’ll engage even more when our feeds are full of things that upset or enrage us. Facebook was doing fine before these detrimental algorithms were put into place. But capitalism says the more money the better, regardless of the cost to the consumer. Therefore this negative feedback loop has begun to spiral out of control to the detriment of everyone.

It seems like a lot of people are hesitant to give up the idea that they are completely autonomous and always make conscious, educated decisions for themselves in life. It is unpleasant to consider that a lot of our behavior is being directed and influenced by things that are largely out of our control or even our conscious awareness. Nevertheless, that is the truth.

I think part of the problem is that people really want to believe they can avoid the negative mental health effects of social media because they are addicted to it. As humans we’ll make excuses to continue indulging in whatever addiction we may have. We’ve all known an alcoholic living in denial, loudly proclaiming at any opportunity, “I could stop if I wanted to.”

It’s hard to acknowledge that something we do every day is bad for us. Especially when stopping the behavior results in negative social consequences. I know a lot of people that want to stop using Facebook, but feel that they can’t because it would upset their family and friends and lead to a certain degree of social isolation. I struggled with this myself before I ultimately decided to stop using social media apps. Luckily for me, I was able to overcome this easier than others. I’ve never been one to care much about social norms or how others may perceive my life decisions. While these are things I consider, they’ve never held much weight for me. I empathize with the fact that most people place a lot more emphasis on these factors.

At the end of the day, yes, the individual is not absolved of all responsibility when it comes to societal issues, but the lion’s share of the responsibility is still on the developers of these sites. No one has to use social media. We do have the potential to feed the algorithm different information now that we know how it works. By actively choosing to engage with more positive content than negative we could make a difference. However, this is not a very practical or realistic solution when it comes to society as a whole.

The United States may claim to value freedom above all else, but the amount of freedom we actually have is often deceptive, especially when new generations are being influenced by these things at earlier and earlier ages. Are we really free to use social media in a mentally healthy way when the AI running the show are directing us and influencing us from behind the scenes? To me, the freedoms we fight for are often illusions of freedom perpetuated by a corrupt capitalist system that is profiting off of that “freedom.”

My main point here is just to say, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re doing the best you can within the framework our society and government have built. Freedom is a tricky concept. While we may have the freedom to choose in many aspects of our lives, those choices are also limited by our environment. You are not a helpless victim, but you are also not the only one responsible as many in the media would have you believe.

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