As most of you may already know, my writings regularly touch on the issue of “wage slavery” – that is, the social phenomenon of being forced to carry out work in order to earn money. Concerning this, a reader recently sent me an email with the following message:
Came across your blog last night and had a browse of quite a few of the articles.
Really enjoying the content on there; very inspiring.
I am interested in what you think of employment for someone who is seeking to live this alternative lifestyle you write of. We all know, that unfortunately we need to make some form of money to live, to buy food, pay rent, etc. We can’t just run off into the woods and hide!
To what extent can someone work in a job they dislike and still seek the enlightenment they desire? For example, I am finishing off my undergraduate Philosophy and Literature degree at the moment. My plan afterwards is to get a job in hospitality in the evenings, so I can focus on writing in the day, push forward some music I am making with my friends, and save money to go travelling. But still, a lot of my time will be consumed being a ‘wage slave’…
I’m not asking for any direct guidance here, or any solid answer. I’d just be interested in what you thought of the need to work in a job we don’t exactly want to do, and it being somewhat unavoidable.
My most sincere regards,
If you take a look around you, you’ll see that most people are day in and day out selling at least half of their waking time to others, expending most of their physical and mental energy working as employees, just so they can earn a salary in exchange. And, although that’s something no person in the world enjoys doing, it’s a normal thing in our culture, and, in fact, unavoidable, as T (for privacy reasons I won’t reveal the reader’s real name) points out.
Obviously, we need food to survive, as well as shelter and the ability to provide ourselves and our families with goods that make life comfortable. How do we acquire those things? Everyone knows the answer: through money. In our culture, money is the means that allows us to satisfy our basic needs. In other words, without money, we can’t “earn a living.” I, for example, can’t just express myself through my writings or paintings, which are two of my biggest passions, unless I am somehow able to financially support myself. Although for some years now I’ve managed to earn what has been termed “passive income” mainly from doing work that I love and which allows me to focus even more time and energy on it, my journey wasn’t that easy from the beginning.
Not a long time ago, I used to be a wage slave myself, working as a video editor for corporate mainstream TV, which I hated, considering how much I despised its deceiving nature (there are other reasons why I despise mainstream TV, but that’s for another article). I was grateful, however, to have work and earn a salary, being fully aware of how many people in the world are struggling to survive. My situation was bad, but pretty good compared to the one billions of people find themselves in.
In that period of time, I was wasting 7 hours, 6 days of the week, in front of a computer screen, yet I would go back home every night and pour the rest of my energy on The Unbounded Spirit. Most of the times, I had red eyes and a heavy head, but working on my blog was a must – not because someone forced me to do so, but because I knew how much joy it was bringing in my life. It was something I loved doing (and still do), and my aim was to do it as much and as well as I could.
To avoid any misunderstanding, I don’t mean to say that working hard doing what you love will definitely bring you financial freedom. There have been countless of people who’ve dedicated their entire lives doing what they were passionate about, but they never saw a monetary reward for that. A good example is Van Gogh, who created a tremendously big amount of incredible paintings but couldn’t sell a single one of them while he was alive (other than one that was secretly bought by his younger brother Theo in order to help him feel less of a failure). Now, so many years after his death, he is recognized as an artistic genius and his paintings cost tens or even hundreds of million dollars.
So what’s my point? It’s that only by doing what you love, can you find meaning and contentment in life, and even if you never manage to extract any money out of it, it’s still worth pursuing it. Of course, while doing that, you need to somehow earn an income (except if you are willing to starve to death). You need to find some work to do or create one if need be. The question is, what’s the best occupational choice one can make? In my view, it’s to find work that comes as close to your interests and talents as possible and that contributes something positive to the world. That’s certainly a pretty difficult thing to achieve in our crazy society, but it’s definitely worth aiming for, no matter the result. Even if you can’t achieve that, and you’re having a very hard time working as a wage slave, you should do your best to spend your free time doing what brings you fulfillment, and ideally something that also helps bring fulfillment to others – and who knows, if you create and offer something beneficial to the world, people might appreciate your gift and give you something in return, even in the form of money.
In my case, this is exactly what happened. Readers who I’ve never met decide to donate part of their income to support my work. Of course, I never write with the intention of an external reward. To me, the very process of writing is rewarding in itself, but I have to admit, it feels nice when I receive thank-you messages from readers or when they express their gratitude to me in the form of a donation. The problem arises when one does something because one expects to receive something in return. Not that it’s inherently bad to expect a reward, but because the universe just doesn’t seem to be working this way. That is, if what you’re putting out to the world isn’t coming from the heart, people will sooner or later recognize it and will not be willing to support your work. On the contrary, if your work is coming from a place of unconditional love, it’s very likely that you’ll receive love back, in one form or another.
Having said all the above, I’d like to end this article by mentioning that if we humans truly want to put an end to wage slavery and be able to have more freedom to pursue what we deep down desire, it’s of utmost importance that we find a way to alter the very foundations of our economic system – something that is rarely discussed in self-help circles. Coaches and mentors keep on talking about how to find and follow our bliss regardless of the conditions we find ourselves in, but when the very structure of our society is constantly and inevitably bringing obstacles on our path to contentment, then perhaps it would be a good idea to take conscious action in order to change the very system that we’ve been blindly conditioned to maintain with our actions each and every day.
Consider this: we possess the scientific know-how and the technological means to create a world of abundance where all people alive would have enough to fulfill their needs and basic desires. If only we put our knowledge into practice, imagine how much more free we’d be to do what we enjoy. The problem is that most of us don’t believe such a thing is feasible – we’ve been brainwashed to think that happiness, just like money, is scarce, and hence that not everyone can cherish life. Not surprisingly, we find ourselves trapped in a constant struggle, competing and deceiving each other, doing work that we don’t care for and which is completely irrelevant to our well-being.
It’s about time we rethink the way we live and start making concrete changes on both an individual and social level. It’s about time we stop wasting our time and energy on things that bring us suffering, and instead focus on creating gifts of love that help turn the world into a more beautiful place. Then and only then will we be able to find contentment and coexist in harmony with our fellow human beings.