Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

The mythical nature of work in the modern world

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In our society, a society of business rooted in Puritanism, based on a pseudo-ethic of industriousness and thrift, to be rewarded by comfort, pleasure, and a good bank account, the myth of work is thought to justify an existence that is essentially meaningless and futile.

There is, then, a great deal of busy-ness as people invent things to do when in fact there is very little to be done. Yet we are over­whelmed with jobs, duties, tasks, assignments, "missions" of every kind. At every moment we are sent north, south, east, and west by the angels of business and art, poetry and politics, science and war, to the four corners of the universe to decide something, to sign something, to buy and sell. We fly in all directions to sell ourselves, thus justifying the absolute nothingness of our lives. The more we seem to accomplish, the harder it becomes to really dissimulate our trifling, and the only thing that saves us is the common conspiracy not to advert to what is really going on.

Thomas Merton. OCSO
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p. 177

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