Way Is The Highway
So Super About Collaboration?
My Way Is The Highway
I was in San Francisco last week and Denver before that.
Atlanta before that and earlier Boston, Chicago, New York and L.A.. All
anyone talked about was the traffic. How long it took to get here, how long
to get there. As soon as we arrived we started worrying about getting back.
And all this driving was about getting to work and back. And if we were
not going to work, we were going shopping.
When they say life is a journey, not a destination, now I know what they mean. It means we got stuck in traffic.
What seems important about this is that when traffic replaces the weather, technology has replaced nature. A walk in the park has been replaced by the ride home from work.
And where are we driving to? Work and the mall. When did work and shopping begin to define our lives and go from occupation and necessity to obsession and desire. When did Mother Nature turn over the reins to Henry Ford and Home Depot?
The distance between home and work is a measure of the distance between our body and our mind; it is the distance we have traveled from ourselves. If home is where the heart is, work is the place where feelings are unwelcome and reason is worshipped in the form of economics. Is the call of the workplace, where we make the money, and the mall, where we spend it, so seductive that it has convinced us these are lifes destinations and worth spending so much time getting there?
Us for Sale
The shareholder has become the real customer and management has become a sales force convincing us that it is right and necessary to be consumed in service to that customer.
As products, employees are now inventory, warehoused at
home, transported on the highway and delivered for purchases in the showroom
called a workplace. Employees have become just in time commodities.
Add ten or ten-thousand when you need them, ship out ten or ten-thousand
when you are done with them.
I Shop, Therefore I Am
It is not by accident that the mall is as standardized and predictable as our workplaces and the highway we use to get there. You can shop at any mall in any city and never know you were out of town. In a way, the mall should feel like the workplace, for they serve to justify each other. I shop to justify having worked so long and hard, and I work long and hard to support the shopping habit.
What connects the highway and the mall and the consuming nature of work is that they are all high control environments, each with its own order and culturally driven promise. We embrace them as a retreat from the wildness and unpredictability of nature. Not only Mother Nature, but our own nature as well which is filled with chaotic emotions, feelings, doubts and mortality. Commerce, the car and the mall have a reassuring promise of security that our own experience cannot deliver. Nothing is so unpredictable as the weather, and it is in its unpredictability that we seek a replacement.
The problem is our willingness to pay any price for what
the work, the mall and the car mean to us. We have bought the illusion that
success is defined by the work. Freedom is found in the car and pleasure
is purchasable at the mall. These are three basic tenets of the consumer
society and they are false gods. We feel more and more vulnerable at work.
While the car, spending its time creeping on the interstate, laughs at freedom.
And the mall is too numbing to call it a pleasure.
In Search of Balance
We often talk of needing more balance in our lives. Balance is not about giving equal time to work, personal life and free time. Balance is the capacity to know who we are and to feel that our mind, body and spirit are in balance wherever we are. We are unbalanced in the power we have given working, traveling and buying. We have lost ourselves in their pursuit. And the work culture and consumer culture are happy to prosper as a result.
Maybe seeing things as they are helps a little, even more
important is seeing our own part in it. The world we complain about is the
world of our creation. If we stopped shopping for entertainment, got to
work using back roads or stopped moving to the suburbs, went home at 5:00
every day and took all of our vacation time, it would help.