LABOR DAY: Who You Are Is Not What You Do

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by Rev. G. Friesen

The two most important questions navigators ask themselves are:

1. How did we end up here?

2. How do we get to where we want to go?

These are the same questions I feel we’re all asking ourselves and each other. Thing is, none of us agree on the answer to either question.

And the navigator isn’t running the ship. The richest few banded together, and steer the ship. They drop off the loudest and least passive on board on slave islands, like the Pleasure Island of Pinocchio. Thinking we’re being treated, we end up being transformed, traumatized, and enslaved.


They go in boys, they come out jackasses

But it ends up being harder to leave once we’ve been transformed, traumatized, enslaved. Harder to leave the mindset. The victimization has ripple effects — and they’re unseen to us, unless we use social mirrors to help see them.

Considering statistics, we know you’ve probably quit a job at an abusive, toxic workplace — or at least we can be sure you believe the workplace you left was toxic and abusive (don’t worry – it probably was).

The reason you didn’t quit (or did, for that percentage of us) is because of the stress associated with this life change. It is stressful because it is the disassociation of your identity. Like putting part of yourself into a Horcrux and losing it or watching it break.

Once our minds take on the identity of the employee, the slave, the subordinate, the task we perform, we adopt that identity as our mask. And a mask it is. It is our — as the Greeks put it — per sona. The essence of our personhood. In Greek theatre, this was the literal mask being worn by the actors — drama… comedy.

And it is true today, on the stage of the everyday world. Everyone is wearing a mask (persona) — if not, answer me, are you the same person at the Thanksgiving dinner table as you are at work? Or with your high school sweetheart?

In America, before the arrival of Europeans, many native nations sang songs of their history and heroes to welcome each of the seasons, and wove or crafted 2/3 of their week. This is what they did for “work”.

Unfortunately, our history has always considered the native tribes that emphasized advanced warfare the most advanced.

Imagine that. Leads one to consider the answer of where to go and the answer of where we once were might just be one in the same. Even in this paradise, I bet you we’ll still identify ourselves as our work – and our work as ourselves. It’s in our nature.

Further, Are others consistently only one persona among all circumstances of life? Of course not. Yet, a thread ties all our actions, thoughts, behaviors, and personalities together, the thread of what we do all our waking lives.

And what do we do? We work. We have to to eat and more importantly, to feed our families. Or get out of debt. So, you know, so our kids don’t end up debt. Needing some redeemer, weakened, at risk, subject to largesse and other insults.

Our work life consumes 2/3 of our waking lives. Do you consider your workplace democratic? How do you know what democracy is?

We identify with our work. Some believe that which we produce is a part of who we are.

“Some believe that which we produce is a part of who we are.”

People used to take on the names of what they did as their own. Butcher. Baker. Surnames were what we did for a living. We inherited what our parents did, if we were taken care of.

Nowadays, rather than add the title to the Christian name as a surname, we add it to the full name as a title. Our surnames have become our middle names. We are no longer Adrian Cooper and George Butler. We are Adrian Cooper, SEO; and George Butler, Web Admin. Don’t believe me? Look at your business card and those of your contacts (it’ll feel weird, but it’s okay, we’re adults – we have business cards).

Same goes with your email signature. You write your name, then what you do.

Social interaction has become so strained, we no longer know how to relate to one another. How do you introduce yourself to a stranger? Is it just like how you write your email signature? Imagine yourself at a party:

“Hi. My name is X. I do X for a living. [insert explanation here]”

How did we end up here? How the hell do we get where we want to go?

(Everyone disagrees.)