A few days ago, on my post entitled Polemic, I had an anonymous comment which said: 'You should try a real job one day and see its affect on your writing.' I responded: 'What real job would you suggest?', going for what was, to me at the time, the cheap joke. But of course, as anonymous comments often do on the internet, this one hit a nerve.
In general I consider it one of my significant failures in life that I am barely able to engage with the world in any way, apart from thinking about it. I consider my life to be almost a complete failure, an absolute disaster, though I realize this is often not how my life is perceived by others. But about that my main thought is that they simply don't know the extent of the disaster.
And yet, at the same time, I don't think a 'real job' would have so much effect on my writing, at least not at this point, at age forty-one. I think I would walk through any real job with the same abstracted distance that allows me to survive all the other unpleasant things in daily life, always searching for the correct overview, the insights that will make all the hopeless struggle just a little bit more worthwhile.
I absolutely do not want to give any disrespect to real jobs. But I think organic farming is a real job, fighting for a more just world is a real job, maybe healing the the sick is a real job. Of course I do none of these things. But so many of the things that people call real jobs, that people do to make money, especially if they are making large quantities of money, seem to me to not be jobs but crimes. Even things people do to make small amounts of money, because they feel they have no choice (since there are so many things in each of our lives about which it most often feels we have no choice), are embedded within these networks of poorly thought out destruction.
Of course I don't think art, or writing, is any better. Everything is just a slightly different angle on the same overwhelming problem. We all do the things we feel able to do.
I often write about how the psychotic unfairness of our world completely destroys me. That some people do beautiful, important jobs and can barely survive, while others do evil, stupid jobs and fill their offshore accounts with more money than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes. I think about all this when I hear the word job: what is important, what does our culture value and not value, what does it mean to survive and what does it mean to live. I can't think about the fact that I don't have a 'real job', and that my life is relatively easy compared to most, without thinking about the web of incredible unfairness in which all these categories are embedded and create.
Yet this is not my real reaction to the comment. My real reaction is that it is essentially correct, that I am too far away from the rest of the world and from the way that other people I know (and don't know) see things. I am always striving for difference, for a different way of seeing things, and yet when I achieve it not only is it emotionally painful, but it also doesn't feel like I've achieved much.
I don't really know how to end this post.