It’s Labor Day and I do hope that you aren’t working. I am of course working. There are a lot of reasons that are specific to me. One is that I work with people all over the world. International Workers’ Day is on 1 May. We have Labor Day because of the federal government’s disastrous response to the Pullman Strike. Those were the days when politicians actually worried about revolution (although not enough to do what was right in the first place). So most of the people I work with will not have today off.
The other reason is because I work all the time. The closest I’ve had to a day off since I returned from Mexico was on Friday when I worked about two and a half hours. The truth is that this work is kind of addictive. I’ve come to think of it as providing me with Sudoku Meaning. It’s the kind of meaning that I get from doing Sudoku puzzles. I’m very good at them. They engage my mind. They require a fair bit of creativity. But they aren’t deep. What television is to most people, Sudoku is to me.
Sudoku Meaning and My Job
I get Sudoku Meaning from my job. What’s more: I get paid to get Sudoku Meaning. I consider myself quite lucky in this regard. Just the same, this feeds itself. I shouldn’t work this much. But to stay with the television analogy, it’s like people who always watch The History Channel or whatever. They know there are other things on. But it’s just convenient. In this regard, my job is way easier than running Frankly Curious. I never know what I’m going to write around here. There’s no structure. There’s just a vague notion that I should write something interesting for the people who make a special trip here each day — and there are quite a number of them.
Frankly Curious Too!
But the truth is that Frankly Curious mostly provides Sudoku Meaning to me. There isn’t anything fundamental about it. There are times when what I write about transcends the format. Some of my work on Don Quixote works that way — providing me with sense of self-actualization. But way too much of it is facile craft. Give me any subject and two hours and I’ll give you an 800 word article, typeset with images. Hell: give me a first sentence! After writing over 7,000 articles for this blog, I’m good at that kind of stuff.
It’s all Sudoku Meaning. So I’m looking for some deeper meaning. What that requires, I think, is slowing down. And that brings us back to Labor Day. We should have lots of them. But the truth is that most people don’t get one of them. Even if they get the day off, they don’t get paid for it. It’s hard to have friends and family over for a barbecue if you don’t have any money. But I think we lack leisure because we’ve embraced Sudoku Meaning.
Sudoku Meaning Is the Modern Sisyphus
Think about Sisyphus — the guy who rolls a huge boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down, requiring him to repeat the process — for eternity. I see this — Quelle surprise! — in Schopenhauerian terms. It is the struggle of life that we live through each day just so we can repeat the same struggle tomorrow.
But we don’t need to struggle anymore. There is more than enough food for all. We can shelter everyone. In the west, we are doing quite well. So I think we developed Sudoku Meaning to help us carry on the Sisyphusian struggle. As Neil Postman put it in Amusing Ourselves to Death, “Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours.” Rather than find meaning that has substance, we settle for a simulacrum of it.
I see the problem very clearly in my own life. And I am fighting it. And losing. Badly.
Happy Labor Day.