Many people in the United States have utilized the time off work they have had during the pandemic to reassess their lives and think about how they want to continue living them. The result has been that millions of Americans have quit their jobs. For some, it has merely been dissatisfaction with wages and salaries. For others, it has been dissatisfaction with the quality of the job. Perhaps its too many hours spent on it with not enough time left for recreation and family life. Or maybe, it’s just that the job itself is missing something in terms of work satisfaction.
I think that people are confronting the fact that working on assembly lines or for big white-collar bureaucracies leads to an inability to make and preserve organic imprints – to live vibrant lives with rich primary experience and to be able to prepare for death with well-preserved organic imprints. Modern technology creates sensory distortion for people. In blue collar jobs, there are the tension-pockets of noise pollution from the machines on the assembly line or like leaf blowers outside the factories, and dust and chemical pollution created during the processes used to produce and use products. In white collar jobs, there is the physical frictionlessness of sitting in front of a computer many hours a day. Both blue collar and white collar jobs have the excess mediation that comes from the machines that they use, machines that are separating them from their fields of experience.
So, the sensory distortion created by modern work environments pushes people to want to leave them, even if its only to go to a work environment with a different kind of sensory distortion. One other layer of sensory distortion in this modern vocational transformation should be noted. The layer of numbness that was created as a result of the isolation due to Covid 19 restrictions. There is no question but that the isolation created by Covid 19 not only gave people the time to mull over their work options, but also put people in another layer of an experiential vacuum which, in turn, pushed them to want to shock themselves by changing up their work situation. And what better way to deal with the ongoing numbness created by their living situation as a result of Covid, than to put themselves in a work situation where they were constantly shocking themselves through new freelance contract projects. Just the different routines involved in performing their various freelance tasks could shock people by forcing them into constantly new patterns of behavior. But, in addition, the ongoing stress of living without paid health insurance benefits and without money going into their retirement accounts is a continual cause of abrasive friction that can work to pull them out of their numbness.
In truth, being a freelance worker in today’s world can bring its own form of sensory distortion. There is little if any emotional bonding with the employer, because the employer is constantly shifting and can be even more impersonal and emotionally distant than the employers found in occupations with large bureaucracies. There is the lack of certainty that comes in terms of being paid at unpredictable intervals. In terms of pay, just like in terms of work itself, it can be feast or famine. On the positive side, there is frequently the opportunity to work on one’s own schedule. This, of course, assumes that a person is self-motivated enough to do his work in a timely way without having a company structure to goad him into maintaining a continuous pattern of work production. Unless one is self-motivated, being self-employed can put one in an experiential vacuum. And frequently, to overcome the social isolation that can come with freelance work, self-motivation can lead to a person needing to generate a lot of internal abrasive friction through what I have called conative acceleration in previous articles. Conation refers to the will, so conative acceleration refers to a forced artificial speeding up of the will in order to feel alive. Many people purposely create emotional stress for themselves in order to prevent the numbness that can come with vocational isolation in today’s world from slowing them down.
Perhaps it can be said that there is one positive work tendency that could come out of Covid: the creation of small businesses or, to use the current name, microbusinesses. Now if all or most of the interactions among employees and owners or between employees and customers is done online rather than in-person, then sensory distortion will continue to dominate the work process and employees will continue to periodically need to shock themselves by quitting their jobs and finding different ones. If, on the other hand, a significant portion of the work process can be handled in-person, then there is an opportunity for an employee in a more intimate work environment to make and preserve organic imprints both on his employer and on his customers. And the owner of the business will be able to make and preserve imprints on his employees and his customers. And both owner and employee will find they have more meaningful lives with more meaningful commitments.