I'm on a paid vacation right now. For those of you who don't already know, this means my employer, Summersault, is actually paying me to not show up to the office for a while. Ha - suckers! Apparently it's pretty normal for employers around the world to offer some sort of paid "break" from the expectations that normally come with the job - showing up, getting stuff done, etc. - in the name of rejuvenating oneself, catching up, getting rest, exploring the world, spending more time with family, and so on. But I thought I might take a few ironic moments to suggest that this practice of paying people to go on vacation is a rather silly one, at least in the context of the larger effort to create the lives we want for ourselves.
The interesting thing about the practice is what it might imply about the times when we are not on vacation; that, while working, we can not be as rejuvenated, caught up, rested, in touch with our families and the world, etc. as we should be. In some cases, it implies that we are spending time every day doing things that we would not otherwise choose to be doing, were it not for some strange compulsion that usually takes the form of so-called "compensation", a.k.a. moh-nay. And so there is this separation between our "work lives" and our "personal lives", which are too-often just euphemisms for "the time we spend doing things we'd rather not do but have to do" and "the time we spend doing the things we like to do." Kind of sad, really, that so much of our waking lives might be spent on activities we don't really want to be doing. I don't mean to generalize - there are plenty of people who love what they do with their time every day - but even for the most rewarding job, it's still a job, a thing that we do until retirement, a thing that pulls us out of the natural rhythms of existence and into a world that is usually artificially constructed to someone else's liking. Strange, at best, and stranger still that we perpetuate this way of life as the way that humans have to live.
I'm grateful for the fact that, on the whole, I really enjoy the things that I do for my "work life," and in many cases, would choose to do them even if I weren't being compensated. Sure, they might take a slightly different form than they do in my role at Summersault (and in Summersault's role as a for-profit company acting within and benefitting from the global economy), but I generally get to apply the skills and expertise that I posses to challenges, projects and organizations that I think are having some sort of positive impact on the world I live in. More importantly, I feel privileged to know that my "work life" and "personal life" are intertwined in ways that don't usually feel uncomfortable, and are often very complementary. The relationships I have with the people I work with, the missions of the organizations I'm involved with, the projects I take on, the values I try to live out, the larger goals I have for my life...all of these things are improved or furthered by the larger notion of "How I Spend My Time," and with every passing year, I see fewer distinctions between what I consider "work" and what I consider "personal".
I suppose this is a manifestation of an ideal that I have for the world at large - that we can work toward a version of humanity that does not require people to spend time doing things they would not otherwise choose to do, just so they can have access to groceries, housing and other basics (and often at the expense of other great experiences like strong community, strong families, playfulness, seeing the world around them, laughing out loud on a regular basis, etc). I hope we can instead follow a vocation, which as Frederick Buechner beautifully put it, is "where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need." I think that when we have to save up all of those things we'd like to do, and the possibility for living out our deep gladness, for a planned vacation, we may not be living our lives to the fullest, responding to our true calling in the world.
There are plenty of cautionary statements to go along with this ideal. For example, I'm a privileged middle-class white male who can say these things on my quaint little blog that's hosted for free at a company I started with resources acquired and derived from the struggles of many others before me, while plenty of others fight for basic survival - food, water, shelter - every day. For there to be any chance of an equity amongst humans where balance and interdependent communities of people living out their true vocation can thrive, we must first find peace with justice, a culture that doesn't thrive on destruction, and an economy that doesn't depend on exploitation and oppression.
But no matter the hurdles to getting there, I think there's a version of humanity that does not require us to carve out a work life for ourselves that is separate from our personal life, that doesn't necessitate as many vacations from our vocations. In fact, humans lived this way for quite some time before our modern culture came along and said we needed to make enough money so we can buy an iPhone or two. In that time, we knew what it was like to live, work, and play all in the same context of a community of people who were literally making a living together, no daily commute necessary. If they heard stories of what we call "making a living" these days, even in the cases where we start our own companies that provide exceptional opportunities for a harmonious life, they'd still probably say, "Ha - suckers!"
What kinds of vacations do you take? What's your vocation? Where do they meet?