Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ASBC: Sisyphus, Joe, and Chad

The Anti-Social Book Club is in session! (i.e., my book is due back at the library on Friday.)

Anyway, because I don't get a paycheck for the work I do, I liked Ariely's question, "What besides a paycheck confers meaning on work?" I also enjoyed Ariely's retelling of the legend of Sisyphus and his meaningless task. (He rolls a boulder up the mountain, almost to the top, only to see it bounce back to the bottom of the mountain again.) I identify with this doomed man. Laundry, dishes, preparing meals, general cleaning--all Sisyphean tasks.

In many ways, the "work" part of my husband and I's lives are very similar. Austin goes to banks and makes sure they are financially sound and then comes back a year later to do it all over again. I spend much of my day on repetitive tasks, only to wake up the next day and repeat the same tasks. We don't mind what we do. Some days we really like it. (Remember, I'm not talking about the "I-love-my-kids" part of parenting, just the "physical work" part of parenting.)

Remember Joe and Chad in Chapter Two? They both liked building Bionicles, but Chad's get destroyed right after he builds them. Joe builds a little longer, because the experimenters hold on to his Bionicles. Austin and I are a little like Joe and Chad: "Joe could maintain the illusion that his work was meaningful, and so continued to enjoy building his Bionicles. Chad, on the other hand, witnessed the piece-by-piece destruction of his work, forcing him to realize that his work was meaningless." I just had to laugh reading it. It was a perfect description of what happens at my house after I cook a delicious meal or clean--my family takes mere minutes to conduct a "piece-by-piece destruction of my work," eating the meal or spreading toys all over the floor. Perhaps Austin can extract more meaning from his work because his reports don't get ripped up right after he writes them.

So should I give up and stay on the sofa watching soap operas and eating bon-bons all day? Ariely gives me hope: "The translation of joy into willingness to work seems to depend to a large degree on how much meaning we can attribute to our own labor." Unless I provide a greater meaning to dishes, laundry, making meals, and general cleaning, I will become bitter, hopeless, and pessimistic about life. So, here you are: I am doing service, learning to become like Christ, making my home like the temple, providing a nurturing environment, making my home a place my family wants to spend time in, etc. I could add that I'm keeping my family healthy by cleaning, bathing, wiping bums, (kids only) and feeding them nutritious meals. However, the spiritual meanings popped into my head before the physical ones, and as those are the ones that have more of a lasting impact, I should probably focus on those.

More posts on this book coming in the next few days.


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