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Semi-Retirement for the Under Twenties: Part 5

The Work You Do For Money Should Be Part-time

A review by juniorcain of Jaron Lanier’s book You Are Not a Gadget (a critique of the internet revolution) asks, angrily, ‘Will we all be expected to work at jobs to which we’re indifferent so we can come home and do the things we love for free online?’ The answer to a more general form of this question is ‘yes’. We will work at jobs (though not full-time) to which we are indifferent, and we will come home and do the things we love for free (though not necessarily online).

The type of work you do to earn enough money for rent and food – what we shall call subsistence work – is not so important. The most important aspect of this work is that it is part-time. Your important work is not your subsistence work, but the work you do in your spare time. We shall call the latter type ‘work’, because when we spend our time taking pleasure from our genuine capabilities we will put in effort, and to not call this work is to give it inferior status to our subsistence work.

The modern work ethic, which says we must take satisfaction and meaning in our lives from our full-time career, is an invention of the last couple of centuries, created by the Industrial Revolution. In the Middle Ages people worked the hours necessary to earn enough money to live: subsistence work. The rest of the time was their own. Would you not prefer to live like this? The idea that we must take meaning from our work has become so entrenched it is not surprising if you are unaware there is an alternative.

Full-time career work has commandeered the definition of the word ‘work’. If you refuse to have a career, you will still work, but at ideas of your own choosing. You will not go along with the lie that full-time career work is the only route to finding meaning in your life, because not only is it not the only route, it is rarely a route at all. Only our own ideas are meaningful to us. Other people’s work is automatically less meaningful, because it originates from other people’s ideas. It only has value in that it provides us with food and rent, and is subsistence work.

So how do you live with a part-time wage, and what type of subsistence work will we look for that will support our real work?

next: Part 6 – The Nature of Your Part-Time Subsistence Work is Not Important