Total Work Newsletter: How Work Took Over the World

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Total work is the process by which human beings are transformed into Workers and nothing less while more aspects of life are slowly transformed into work. In this newsletter, I’ll be documenting, reflecting upon, and seeking to understand this world-historical process, one that started at least as far back as 1800 and quite possibly well before then.

How is our relationship with work destroying our humanity? How, strangely, did work become a cultural obsession? And why does work dominate our world? Beginning in January, I grapple with these questions and more in . Sign up!

 

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‘If work dominated your every moment would life be worth living?’ My Aeon Essay

My Aeon essay begins this way:

Imagine that work had taken over the world. It would be the centre around which the rest of life turned. Then all else would come to be subservient to work. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, anything else – the games once played, the songs hitherto sung, the loves fulfilled, the festivals celebrated – would come to resemble, and ultimately become, work. And then there would come a time, itself largely unobserved, when the many worlds that had once existed before work took over the world would vanish completely from the cultural record, having fallen into oblivion.
And how, in this world of total work, would people think and sound and act?

You can read it in its entirety here.

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The Philosopher Is Present #1: Questions In The Darkness

Overview

“The Philosopher Is Present #1: Questions In The Darkness” was a live performance held at the LungA School in Iceland on Wednesday, November 15, 2017.

 

Brief Description

“The Philosopher Is Present” is a performance intending to evoke mystery. Silence gestures toward ineffable presence while two strangers’ voices speaking into each other’s inclined ears suggests reverence. In this performance, durational art is woven together with the Socratic question and the Zen sense of mystery. The philosopher is present, though physically absent. The guests are present with one another.

How is this to be?

The philosopher is seated on the ground in one place; he is heard via Zoom. In Seyðisfjörður, Iceland, is a circle of guests. The first guest approaches the philosopher, sits down in front of the screen. She is blindfolded. She says, “I’m here.” They have never met before and know nothing about each other.

They begin in silence, and out of the silence there comes a question. The guest says what she believes to be true, her answer as concise as possible. She cannot ask him any questions. Neither knows what the other will say or what will occur. Time falls away, and could a glimpse of the mystery of existence be disclosed to them? The guest opens her eyes and leaves, and, moments later, another comes and sits down in front of the screen.

He is blindfolded. He says, “I’m here.” They have never met before and know nothing about each other. They begin in silence, and out of the silence there comes a question…

Locations

Seyðisfjörður, Iceland
Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

Program Notes

Act I: Death
1a. Mother’s Eyes
1b. Mother’s Eyes

Interlude I

Act II: Love Lost
2a. When the Rain Came Down
2b. When the Rain Came Down

Interlude II

Act III: The End
3a. Is That All?
3b. Is That All?

Interlude III

Act IV: The Great Mystery
4. I Am What I Seek

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to: Jonatan Spejlborg and Lasse Høgenhof for inviting me to try PIP at LungA; to Daniel Kazandjian and Peter Limberg for letting me experiment with an earlier version of PIP at Stoicism Toronto; to Mattias Blomberg for sound editing; to Ivan Bilicki for bringing to my attention Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?”; and to my wife Alexandra Dawn Taggart who helped me to prepare.