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How do we remain human in a world that worships toil?

In an article in The Guardian (20th Nov), Justine Toh explores how we remain human in a world that worships toil.

The best advice I’ve ever heard about rest also feels the most impossible: put it in your diary before anything else. Schedule it in, as deliberately as you would any other activity, before work colonises your entire consciousness.

Left unchecked, work will rule your life.

Which isn’t to say work is bad in and of itself. It’s a means of providing for ourselves and those we love. Whether or not you love your work, paid and unpaid, for those of us who are able to work, it’s a route to dignity and skill, and a necessary contribution to the common good.

But the good of work gets warped in a 24/7 global economy where productivity tools and wall-to-wall wifi mean you never need stop working. If money never sleeps then nor, it seems, need you.

In this city of strivers, if you’re not working yourself to death, are you even alive?

Jonathan Malesic, the author of The End of Burnout: Why Work Drains Us and How to Build Better Lives, says we need to tame the “demon” of work.

The ceaseless, obsessive American work ethic is actually a kind of demon haunting him and just about everyone else. We are a society almost totally under its power.

Sounds extreme until you consider the demand for constant productivity, our obsession with efficiency and optimisation, and how we value people based on their employment status. The fact that workaholism is so socially acceptable, even if overwork hollows us out.

I’m learning that something far more precious is at stake: the ability to remain human in a world that worships work. Enter rest – but not rest that simply recharges us for work, for that just recruits rest to the cause of greater productivity. Instead, rest that allows us to recognise what all the work is for.

In the Jewish and Christian creation stories, God rested on the seventh day of creation after all his work. Along with the world, the ideal week was born: six days of work, followed by one of rest. A pattern of time observed by God himself, even though a perk of divinity is surely infinite reserves of energy. This rhythm of life keeps work in its place: key to a thriving life but not the entire point of existence.

Read the full article here.