long may your words live

… if only amid the drifted strata of effluvium where dimensionality and subtleties of living-breathing get sacrificed to retrospect’s incisive core sampling tactics– still, it’s something better than nothing.

I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again– I truly, dearly love the internet archive wayback machine. it creates a sense of continuity and footing in this otherwise untracked and untethered gelatinous ooze of cyberspace. and there are times I can really use that exterior scaffolding as I fidget and tumble and noodle and thrash and angst and angst some more my own odd way along.

it’s all too tumultuous and shifting a sea, the lives we live out online in so many fragmented words and images, so many diaphanous connections forged and dissipated over so much time– as we keep moving ever onward and this malleable beast the internet continues to morph and shift through myriad twitters and twitches and memes– from personal narrative to porn, social networking to ecommerce, blogging to marketing, the whole proliferation of personal identity construction and branding.

 

one of the things for which I love the wayback machine (which name chris points out to me as we’re watching the rocky & bullwinkle show, a longstanding favorite of his, originated with mr. peabody’s device) is its preservation in some form of the topic project, which lorelei and I got started post-workshop as a writing-engines-warmup-throat-clearing routine and which ran for a handful of glorious months in 2001, suffered collapse with 9/11, and then revived for a short stint in 2005– collaborative constructions being fitful and tricky to perpetuate, a topic in and of itself that preoccupies me some days. (I know I’ve written about the topic project elsetime here in vox, only I can’t find it now– once again foiled by the limitations of search and indexing capabilities, only allowed to view my top 100 tags from within a vast lexicon of idiosyncratic and spontaneously logical notations lost to retrospective review).

lately I’ve been thinking a lot about work (again)– what makes it satisfying, what makes it frustrating, what factors play into the kinds of “work” I personally define as valuable and fulfilling– as I struggle with the relentless daily treadmill of time and against letting myself allow it to be or feel like too much of a treadmill despite the onward march of days of the week, well-trodden commute route, and the host of other habitude that conspires to drag me into that particular failure of imagination– and in this frame of mind this morning, while playing with my current favorite resource google docs, I discovered this little piece of my own scribbles for the topic project that I pulled out sometime last year and saved for myself there:

the topic project

nulla dies sine linea.
Saturday, July 07, 2001

According to Sarah: Work

It came to me in a dream—what work is. That, contrary to common assumption, it isn’t that which one does in order to be paid. That work is, rather, doing something well, properly, and right. It is the nexus of a particular sort of focus that produces an object and a corollary sense of satisfaction. Thus sometimes work is that for which I am paid. But more often of late, in this wacky life of mine, it is made up of the minutiae of domestic existence. No one pays me for this work or even asks or expects me to do it—and I think that because of this very fact, I treasure it all the more.

And so I wake early to barking dogs and get myself up out of bed and go through the whole dog-feeding-and-walking routine, sometimes washing loads of dishes by hand while they eat—I’m much faster and more efficient than a mechanized dishwasher at this stage. And then sometimes I weed the gardens, or water them before the heat of the day creeps across the whole yard. Sometimes I pocket a couple of Ziploc bags and walk down the block to the neighbor’s yard and pick raspberries—or drive out to the commercial berry farm and do the same thing. Some cool mornings I turn on the ceiling fan and make boiling pots of jam and seal it up in blue jars I’ve found in secondhand stores with new screw lids. I feed the fish and brush the cat and fill the bird feeders. All of this is my work, although it doesn’t officially qualify as such. I am not paid for it and it has little value in the common marketplace—and yet this kind of work is true for me, real in a substantive way that the professional work I’ve been paid for (modifying web sites, providing computer support, even teaching) never really attains. I have a product. I am grounded. I am in and of the world.

A friend of mine, while she was in school full time working toward her Ph.D., also worked day in and day out raising two children and keeping a spotless showplace home. Meanwhile her husband went to an office and did work that brought him prestige and a sense of value in the world along with the paycheck by which the family lived. In the common parlance, my friend was not “working”—and yet she worked harder than just about anyone I know. I have to state, although it is not a novel concept, that there is something wrong with this focus— not even material so much as consumerist, catering to a marketplace mentality. Somehow it makes us less human. We value less and less the manual and soul pursuits in lieu of the labor of the intellect. Unless we are plugging our minds into the mainframe in order to contribute to capitalist venture, what we do has little perceived value.

And it isn’t that I consider myself somehow superior to the work the majority of my culture holds in esteem. I’m simply trying to shake off my own assumptions. These are all things that I am saying to myself, over and over again—lest I continue to devalue what is humble and real in my life:

This garden has value—the salad and peas and beans I harvest from it feed my life as well as my body. Crouching and sweating as I struggle with weeds and breathe in the sweet exhalations of humus feeds my soul. This laundry I pull hot from the dryer or fresh off the line on a bright day restores my heart, fold by fold. This is the necessary flip side to the “virtual” world I build with words and thoughts and images. This is the anchor and tail of my traveling balloon.

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