Escape Total Work: A New Short Course

Since 2018, a fair number of people have asked about our doing something more practical when it comes to their relationship with Total Work. I’ve taken some time to think about it, and now I’d like for those interested to join me in a short course, which will be held shortly.

I’m capping the course at 5 participants. As of today, there’s only 1 spot remaining in this pilot course. Here are the details:

Overview

  • “Escape Total Work” will be a 4-week course to be held a few weeks hence. (Participants and I will settle on an exact starting date once interest is expressed.)

  • Each class, lasting about 1 hr. 30 min., will be held weekly; there will be 4 classes in all.

  • I’m planning on capping this first pilot group at 5 people. So, if you’re very keen on joining, I suggest doing so soon. (Details on how to join are included below.)

  • Each class will draw on, while deepening the insights from, the prior class.

  • We’ll convene on Google Meet, which I prefer to Zoom. If you haven’t used it before, then have no fear: it’s easier to use than Zoom.


Tentative Schedule

Week #1: Deepening Awareness of Total Work

How do we come, in our daily lives, to see and feel how we’ve been specifically ‘gripped’ and ‘caught’ by Total Work? When and where, exactly, does it show up? In what particular ways have we unwittingly, and rather blindly, been governed by its logic?

At first, it can be quite difficult to shine a spotlight on the various forms that Total Work takes in our lives. Consider a simple everyday example: your impatience with your significant other may spring from your belief that he or she is taking too long. But his or her taking too long points back to your own self-importance. And when you inquire into your own self-importance, you come to see that it’s stemming from the belief that you have important things to get done. What are these important things? Work things, silly! And now you come to recognize that you’re actually putting allegedly important work things before your tender relationship with your significant other. And this is but one fairly rudimentary example of how your love is severely, often blindly limited by your misunderstanding.

In the first week, we’ll start to illumine various particular conceptions—that is, ways in which Total Work specifically shows up for you—as well as more general patterns—that is, how Total Work tends to show up for many of us.

By the end of the first week, you may be surprised by how little you knew and by how much presumed since theoretical analysis, of the kind found in this newsletter, is insufficient on its own. This knowledge of ignorance, for the Buddha as well as for Socrates, is where the genuine investigation begins.

Week #2: Turning Over Every Stone

If in Week #1 we started to be more aware of Total Work’s effects on certain aspects of our lives, in Week #2 we roll up our sleeves and begin the inquiry into completeness. Awareness, after all, yearns for thoroughness. To be thorough with ourselves, we need, as best we can, to leave no stone unturned.

Accordingly, we may need to go broad and look at our relationship with institutions. Or we may need to be very narrow and granular and examine our entwinement with significant others. Or we may need to occupy middle ground and see how colleagues, mores, and what is now, in business lingo, called “culture” inflect and influence and deform us.

To be dogged in this pursuit is to learn to ‘change the fuel source’ from our being a self-propelled, unexamined agent to our becoming a loving inquirer into the truth.

Week #3: There’s Nothing Special After All

Around Week #3, we set foot on the path of coming home again. For all this time, during all these years, we’ve come to think that work must be something special; that it must shine with its own brilliance; that it will ‘make something’ of us; and that we, in turn, shall be outstanding, remarkable, or special too just so long as we honor its claims and calls. But we are sadly mistaken, and now is the time to lovingly correct our misunderstanding, to see through the tissue of misguided illusions.

Let it be said: “Work is nothing special except insofar as everything in life may gleam with its own specialness.” This is the truth we’ll be investigating. And what is the significance of this truth? Pray, what does it even mean—at all and especially for us? We’ll see its meaning clearly as we inquire together.

Week #4: Hello, Freedom

I don’t think that work should be jettisoned for the simple Buddhist reason that anything in life may have its place in our hearts if only we know how to welcome it and if only we also know how to show it the door when it’s time for it to leave. To jettison it is to continue to react to it and therefore still, perversely, to give energy to it, the energy of hatred. To regard work as a great antagonist: this is not wisdom but enslavement.

Being free from work, then, does not mean never working, in any capacity, again. Besides, I wouldn’t want to be free of sweeping my back courtyard nor of the gift of cooking or of receiving a home-cooked meal. Nor would I wish, no not necessarily, to cease having to do a modicum of work in order to provide for my family.

If, then, work, in myriad forms, is here to stay, the genuine, scintillating philosophical question is: how can we be in right relation with work? Suggesting, as we did in Week #3, that work is nothing special (except insofar as everything is special) does not tell us where and how to find a proper place for it in our conduct and in our way of living.

What we’ll learn, in time, through experience, and in our shared engagement with one another, will be how to put work to rest and thus to be at peace with it. This is true peace and real freedom. It is peace of mind, this is true, but is also more than this also.


Details

If this proposed course resonates with you, then

  • Send me (at totalwork.us@gmail.com) an email with (a) your name, (b) your email address, (c) what city and country you live in (plus time zone) (d) what brings you to really want to contemplate this further (i.e., to go a lot deeper with it), and (e) what you hope to learn. (<—Though please don’t be attached to your hopes as the course will wend this way and that according to what’s actually occurring in its organic unfolding.)

  • The course will be offered in the spirit of the gift economy that I’ve used since 2012 or so. Don’t be concerned or afraid; I’ll explain more as we go. For now, it’s enough to consider this question: at the end of the course, ask yourself, “How much am I able to wholeheartedly give to support Andrew’s philosophical life?” You don’t need to know that answer now. You just need to be open to the inquiry when the time comes. I’ll guide you through it.

If you have any further questions, feel free to email me at totalwork.us@gmail.com.

I’m eager to inquire with you. With lovingkindness (metta),

Andrew