Show Up Ready To Make, Not Ready To Take

A thought for hipsters everywhere: love of money is the root of all evil does not mean that money itself is the root of all evil, but rather, that desiring it as an end in itself is. At the heart of it, evil—laziness and self-centeredness—is the root of the need for money.

Money is the scourge that keeps us working. It is the curse on the ground in Eden. Most of us aren’t working the fields for our food anymore, so the curse comes up in new ways. We are still getting our bread by the sweat of our brow, though now that sweat may take the form of long hours bending over a keyboard or shrinking digits in an online real-time bank statement. But it’s still sweat, and the world of digital work and digital compensation is no less fraught with thorns and thistles.

It’s real hip to say that we don’t want to play that game, that we don’t want to feed into the world system, man. But a caveat to you pure artists and revolutionaries who wish to bow out: if you don’t want to feed into the world system, you will have to stop taking from it, too. You will have to stop promoting your work on the internet, which runs on devices, scripts, processors, and fiber-optic cable designed and built and implemented by people who need a place to live and something to eat. You will have to stop using your car, which was likewise designed and built by people. You will have to stop eating out, since the local people who work at your favorite restaurant also need to pay rent. You will literally have to go live in the wilderness and be totally self-sufficient, because that’s really what you’re pining for when you complain about your bills.

If you want enough money to live (which, by the way, is not the desire that the passage speaks against), assess your skills and see what you have to offer. Everyone needs everything every day. The economy may be “bad,” but everyone is still buying things and subscribing to paid services.

If your attitude towards work is, “I just want something that I can show up to and get paid for without having to engage my heart and mind,” you will get exactly what you deserve, which is frustration and difficulty. People will give you a hard time at work. You will be reprimanded for laziness. You may even get fired.

We need to stop viewing an income as something to which we’re entitled and remember that it’s something for us to earn. We should not approach the work transaction ready to take, but rather, ready to make. People need things. We are all talented. We can meet each other’s needs. Money is just the moderator in disputes over the value of objects and services. As such, it is a necessary part of a messed-up world. It is the stand-in for having faith in people we don’t know.

So humble yourself and work your hardest at your job. If you get paid, consider it grace.

2 thoughts on “Show Up Ready To Make, Not Ready To Take

  1. You’ve got to admit, though, it’s a lot easier for some people than others than others, to earn an income. You really can’t say, “We need to stop viewing an income as something to which we’re entitled and remember that it’s something for us to earn,” without at least acknowledging privilege.

    You know, you and I are both incredibly privileged. For both of us, college was an expectation, not a dream. We got to choose what field we are passionate about.

    A lot of people won’t have those myriad opportunities. They may have only one opportunity, and it won’t be for something they like, but if they miss it, they’re screwed. Some people show up and get paid without engaging because their job *sucks,* but their “heart and mind” is focused on their family, and they keep going to their mind-numbing job because they need to put food on the table.

    And then some people don’t even have that option. I don’t know if you know Emily Schmidlin, she’s Charlotte’s friend, but she’s been having an awful time trying to find a job, because she’s quadriplegic. Since her mobility is so limited, she’s excluded from even “basic” jobs, like being a barista or waitress. She’s has her PhD, but she’s living off Disability income and her parents, because it’s nearly imposible for her to move out of the area.

    So, I mean, I know that there are lazy people who want to whine and “be an artist,” without having to work. But I worry that when people talk about “entitlement,” especially in terms of, like, welfare and other economic issues in the United States, it’s an oversimplification. I think there’s this idea that comes from a WMC perspective, of what everyone should want and strive to be, but that ideal doesn’t match the reality of most people. When you say, “work your hardest…and if you get paid, consider it grace,” it ignores the harsh reality of most people’s situations.

  2. You’ve given me a lot to think about, Lucy. My response probably won’t do yours justice, but I will type and think. Heh.

    I should clarify, perhaps. The article was not directed at people who are wheelchair-bound, but rather, at able-bodied hipsters—that is, for people of our generation who are trying to be artists and believe that they should receive an income from it right away. I’ve had some degree of prolonged immersion in the indie music scene, Kent’s graphic design school, and (to a lesser extent) communities of writers and readers online. In each of these communities, I sometimes encountered a pretentious attitude bordering on a superiority complex. I find this offensive in cases where the artist(s) are, frankly, not very good at what they do.

    Talent rises to the top. Every generation of creativity has its “how-the-hell-did-THEY-get-here?”s, but generally, the principle holds. Sigur Ros has found worldwide fame because their music has something like universal emotional clout. Compare their sound to that of the band at the local dive bar, and you see why each is in its respective place.

    Of course, I’m not talking about the Lady Gagas and Beyonces of the world. Whether or not their commercial product deserves the prestige given it is beyond the scope of an article about art.

    By the way, what is WMC?

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