Total Work is the process by which human beings have been slowly transformed into Workers and nothing else as more and more aspects of life have been transformed into work. This process began near the end of the Middle Ages and has picked up speed since the end of the Protestant Reformation. A conservative estimate, then, would be that Total Work has been taking over, while reshaping, the world for about 600 years.
There are three basic responses to this challenge.
- First, we are living in the wake of the loss of the vita contemplativa, the contemplative life whose purpose is to enable us to contemplate, understand, and come into contact with ultimate things.
- Second, we have come to believe that human agency is the only possible agency operating in the cosmos–certainly in the human world we inhabit.
- And third, we are born into a blind faith in humanism, the view according to which human beings are the only source of provisional and ultimate concerns.
The results of this three-fold development can be seen in
- our unexamined embrace of the vita activa in the form of work;
- the sacrosanct status of the Worker as the agent exercising his will on the world;
- the perpetual human dramas–the dramas with, of, about, and revolving around humans–that seduce and ensnare us.
What has been forsaken is nothing less than
- the contemplative life which enables us to know who we are and why we’re here
- the embrace of the relationship between human beings and the cosmos
- the love of other nonhuman beings–be that God, Buddha-nature, other animals, plants, and so on.
Nihilism is so what. Bereft of contemplation. Beholden to acosmism. Existentially lonely.