What We Do for a Living

Slipping and grabbing. I’ve slipped again. I guess it is the same no matter which new skills I’m learning: focus on getting the feet right, and I forget my arms; focus on tightening the core and I forget to breathe.

Good morning, Di. And thank you for giving me a framework that nudges me back to daily writing. I find I talk to myself best in conversation with others. Is that horrible? I think part of it is the way doing so reminds me that I’m not in possession of the one perspective.

I know it’s already late evening where you are, but I’ve just finished my morning yoga. I am breathing again: that damned noisy Ujjayi is bizarrely soothing. I am trying to find a way back to patterns and rituals: practice.

I was talking to a former student this week about how I believe that while we try so hard to grow into “better” people, we lose things along the way – without noticing.

In my case, I’ve lost so much of my joy – be it drawing or singing or dancing – because I wasn’t “good enough”. Somewhere along the way I drank the Koolaid that clouds everything but the economic value of human endeavors. I am trying to remember when I didn’t think that what I did with my time had to be justified as steps towards an objective, socioeconomic goal. I find that whenever I pick up and old “hobby” I begin with a beginner’s mind, but slowly creep toward judgment and ambition. You know: how yoga as a cultural movement is mostly teacher-training. or angled for promoting clothes or candles or jewelry? Not that I think there is anything inherently wrong with teacher-training, or fun accessories. But I think about how disappointed I felt at the Vatican the first time I went there, seeing all the tourist shops. Souvenirs. Branding. I guess we are wired this way.

We need to feed ourselves. But were we always defined by how we fed ourselves? I would have thought more of us would now recognize that we have so much more time in our days that aren’t a matter of needing to hunt or forage or box fish in a factory?

More of us, not all of us. I know that.

In the cemeteries here the “important” gravestones from the 1800s are marked with names and professions. Baker. Merchant. Shipowner.

Wife.

When we first met and I took vacation time to travel to Genoa for your photography course, my colleagues asked me why I would do that. I felt a need to justify my time and expense by relating it to my “work”.

(If you are a writer, how will this help? If you are a teacher, what’s the point of this?)

How would doing a photography course in Italy increase my value as a … what?

“Pretty extravagant, isn’t it? Don’t you think you should save for a car?”
“Must be nice.”
“You must have money to burn.”

I don’t think the people asking actually thought that – but I did. I have always felt a pressure to justify my existence within some sort of system. I doubt everyone feels this way, but I also doubt I am alone.

We worry about AI taking over. But maybe the instincts, systems and tactics we’ve developed as a species, to ensure our survival have already overtaken our fundamental purpose in a similar way? I say that as though I have an idea of what our fundamental purpose on this planet, or in this universe, is. I don’t. But surely economic growth is not it?

I was thinking, if I had an ambition to spread this view I would have to write a book and create a brand and a movement to make it legitimate. This beast has eaten so many purists, hasn’t it? The purists with their Youtube channels and fame that affords them sponsored roofs over their heads that they can still say they don’t own, while staying sheltered.

Someone is the sin-eater even in every pure movement. Feed me your paradox, and I will absolve you of your contradictions with a blue pill.

I’ve been ashamed for twenty-two years now to be a teacher. This was supposed to be stepping stone to being able to call myself something else. But it is what I have chosen to do to be able to afford the doing.

The price and the prize. Somewhere between them is the doing. I guess I found the price I couldn’t pay to call myself a writer was not the studying, but the salesmanship – networking, presentations. And what I thought as a kid would be the prize: fame, respect – wasn’t really what I was after. I thought those things would raise me above the trolls in the world. Ha!

I’m fine fighting my trolls in the dark, anonymous corners…

and sometimes I get a quiet notice that someone read my work – not just my bio with an eye toward networking.

I’m not exactly off grid – but looking for a middle way. And I’m beginning to wonder if teaching isn’t really the oldest – and most indispensable – profession anyway?

Here is how you slip a stick into a termite hole, little one: you need protein.
This is how you fold a palm leaf to make a safe bed: sleep well.
Watch me dance, hear me sing. Let’s run: this feels good.
Don’t worry about TikTok, little one: Just do it for a living*.

(*You don’t have to be so good at it that people will pay to watch you do it.)

Since taking your course, I have noticed the world more. I have an eye out for the way shapes fit together, and the way I can frame my attention. I’ve been taking daily photos (mostly taken along the same 2-kilometre stretch along the lake) for the past how-many-years-now?

My photography is pretty mundane. But my photography practice is not.

Perspective. That’s what I learned from you.

I thought I’d let you know.


I’m at the computer, drinking hot water, and listening to the rain and the undaunted blackbirds. I’d planned a weekend of gardening, but am making slow progress between the storms. I’ve stained the garden boxes and am trying to find a balance between my need for movement and E.’s need for control. If I had my way, I’d scatter the whole front yard with wildflower seeds and leave them to the bees. Dandelions in the lawn put his teeth on edge.

Compromise in everything. Always: that damned difficult middle way.

I’m planting a box of wildflowers and a box of marigolds. And apple trees.

This is the doing, too. It is part of what I do for a living. And I best get to it.

Much love to you.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. So with you here, Ren–in all regards.

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    1. By which I meant (I was distracted) in all respects.

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