Have you ever sat at work at your desk in front of your computer and felt completely immobilized? Perhaps staring at the screen, not being excited about one single thing that you should be working on? Conceivably like me you’ve procrastinated with just one more thing before you delve in. One last bathroom trip, one more cup of coffee, one last check of your personal phone sitting off to the side… for the 15th time… in the past 5 minutes.
Maybe you’ve been so unmotivated while sitting at your desk you’ve taken to Google “motivation”, “new jobs”, “career changes”, “inspiration”… and alas you become desperate because nothing is lighting a spark, so you Google “depression” or “what’s wrong with me?”
I used to be motivated when I was younger. I was the most motivated, happy person I knew in real life if I was honest with myself and took a break from being so focused to notice that others around me didn’t exactly have the same spark in their eyes about the silliness and mundane work we were doing. At some point I started to feel my energy and motivation drain. It was depressing because that didn’t feel like me.
After Google searching any and all possible search words to unearth whatever could possibly be wrong with me, I slowly started to tap into a new reality. I began to wake up realize what a cog in the wheel I’d been. Just a little part of a big giant system churning out widgets at a rapid pace, more rapid than anyone could want them. When people were sick of their widgets and had one too many, advertising was invented to convince people that they should want and need more than they are satisfied with or they will not be happy or ‘successful’. So people kept working harder to churn out more widgets, only to buy more, only needing to work harder and longer to do so… only to be constantly chasing their own happiness and wondering what was wrong with them.
A quick Google search on my smart phone this afternoon revealed to me that butter was invented anywhere between 10,000 and a few hundred years ago. Just a small range, right? None-the-less, sometime, somewhere, at some point a distant time ago; a human being not too different from you or I sat churning butter at home thinking “I can’t wait to finish this churning, it’s SO monotonous.” The cream likely came from a cow just yards away on the farm, not but a few hours before. It’s likely the butter-maker fantasized about a device that could do this for them, so they could spend more time enjoying life. Perhaps the butter-maker didn’t over eat butter because he/she knew how much work went into it. Perhaps they didn’t really overeat anything at all because they understood how much effort went into getting the food before them period. If they didn’t hunt and gather it themselves, they knew they individual who had and likely exchanged their butter for it.
At some point in the past few hundred (or thousand) years, humanity’s inventions surpassed our common sense. We made machines to do just about everything we used to do, including butter churning. As a race we literally left our homesteads and went to work in factories to make things that people needed. The machines churned widgets out so fast, that we made what we needed fairly quickly. It should have stopped there – taking only what we needed. But we kept on churning it all out. It was monotonous. Perhaps even as monotonous as churning butter manually. The only way to get out of this precarious situation and move onto bigger and better things was to churn out widgets with more speed and adeptness than your co-workers around you, so you could instead supervise the line from the catwalk above. It probably was around that point in history that we stopped working together as a human race and started to compete in ways that were harmful to ourselves as a species. The shiny new line supervisor watching from above might have realized that it could feel quite lonely at the top. Perhaps he looked down at the line and missed the camaraderie and teamwork. However with that increase in pay and social status, he wasn’t about to say anything. He ‘made it’ after all. He should feel happy. But he doesn’t’. What’s wrong with him?
Just a mere few hundred years later we live in a world where we want for nothing yet face ridiculous cutthroat completion. So much so that our young children in elementary schools are medications because the stress of having to ‘succeed’ is too much to handle and there is so much stimulation coming at them from every angle, that they are having difficulty focusing.
We are sitting at desks churning out reports no one reads, crunching numbers that can be manipulated so many ways they’ve become useless, and feeling superior for going through more emails than the guy next to us. We are pressured to keep up the sales numbers, sell-sell-sell, beat the competition, beat your neighbor, and keep improving upon all of this before your next performance review. To what end?
At least back in the manual butter churning days we felt connected to our food source, the earth that fed us, the animals the provided for us, our families and friends that we worked collaboratively with on a regular basis in exchange for lives simplicities. There was a sense of purpose and belonging. One could see the fruit of their labor. Rarely did anyone take more than they needed. There was no need for speed and churning out widgets at a rapid pace to meet an invisible, unnecessary sales quota that felt completely empty to you after the pat on the back in front of your team… when you went back to your desk to stare at your computer and wonder why you aren’t happy.
There is nothing wrong with you. There is something wrong with society. We are so far removed from our food sources, our nature sources and simplicity that we have lost our connection and relevancy to the earth and to ourselves. We have little meaningful purpose. We feel bored and lonely. We get all the wrong messages from society to do more, be more, and compete more. We are too tired at the end of the day to spend quality time with family or friends, to volunteer in our community, to go to a town meeting, to fight for anything we care about.
We need to take our lives back. The butter churning days may have been monotonous, but at least it had purpose. At least the butter-maker directly benefited from what they were doing. At least society was working together for a common purpose and felt a part of something bigger than themselves. What is the purpose of what we are churning out now? Machines were invented so we can spend more time enjoying life. Why didn’t that happen?