I already have a varied list of jobs and experiences on my CV, though I imagine if one could create such a document, an abstract CV would harness the static-noise of the majority of these jobs into 1 word: Sisyphean. For those who haven’t had the pleasure to read Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus I highly recommend you do before proceeding. Camus’ Myth is seen by many academics as philosophy-lite, starter philosophy or generally that which is a little too loose to ever be allowed to enter into the ring with the highfalutin pumped masters. That said, I don’t particularly care, it’s a text I often fall back to on the more wearisome days; days too bright for Cioran and too dark for Levinas, that text which rests at the continually pumping heart of humanity.
That said my medicinal CV still exists – unfortunately – bureaucratic warts and all, it’s there plain as day, allotted time, numerous shifts condensed to a single line. Each job I could more than likely only mention between 3-20 unique experiences, memories of merit, memories that fail to blend into the meaningless void.
My current vocation is the ultimate cliché of them all: retail, that which draws the human spirit vampirically. A subtle latch to the neck, head and heart as one enters the door for the first time, intending to tend to the room in which they’ve walked indefinitely.
I’d like to avoid writing here which is the in the vein of the so called ‘millennial’, I wish to avoid mere complaints, grievances and whining of the personal aspect of such jobs, there do not interest me, for they are symptoms of a far larger crisis. The crisis of the human spirit – whether or not that spirit is pessimistic, cynical, toxic, cybernetic, optimistic, satanic, angelic or dull. For even the dullest and most monotone of people should have something to say when they die. Yet, the time that one exists within that job nulls the possibility for authenticity. As if the walls of all retail establishments house a dead time, one in which humans become mere automatons, zombies if you like (not of the consumerist kind.). Pandering to a deity that wishes only to steal their time, energy and possibility, only to annihilate it instantly once out of sight. Let’s stop there. It’s easy pickings to be cynical of those helpless in their ignorance and aimlessness…especially when one is on the edge of becoming helpless themselves.
What if one was put in such a position that all reason is stripped entirely, to the nth degree, in which one exists within a reverberation of time, single days, hours and minutes at a time, all culminating into a…’work-day’, a ‘shift’. A time in which the present is always the same each time it is anew. Each present, each now, as in each minute, hour and day as a present or now is the same as the last, all merging into a confused ‘new’. One attains an uncanny sense that even the deepest of their feelings, emotions and conversations have been experienced prior, and that the only differences are superficial: Talk of the storm the night before changes the conversation slightly, yet it feels the same as before; a smile from someone usually miserable, yet they seem unchanged; a vintage car slowly glides past the storefront, yet it could easily be a plump people carrier. It could be any other day, any other hour, any other second – it is, but in your reality it isn’t. The call of the void grows louder and louder, you want to lunge, expand your lungs to max velocity, paint the walls red and listen to records of shattering glass, if only to break the tension of infinitesimal presents. To take an instrument – musical or sharp – and strike thorough through the weakest part of dullard time, create, live, ‘n love as they say.
Those last 3 terms seem vacuous to you now of course. And that’s not just because of consumerisms general insistence towards the profitability of each, no, it is because they very quickly get swept into the general feeling of mere existence. Neither standing, sitting, perched or talking, nor acting, dancing, laughing or screaming, merely existence, the feeling of a heavy form within its exact shell plonked mercilessly into an endless sea of insufferable animals, vibrant sensations and bright experiences – “Not really!” says the plonk-er, as one realises that an endless sea is rather larger, and that a wave of interest is few and far between, patterns emerged and have existed forever, those who try to ignore them become confused and drown – often on purpose.
“…deep feelings always mean more than they are conscious of saying.”
So how does one avoid this hyper-ambiguity, this place void of deeper meaning, a place in which the idle-chatter has founds its home, ticking inside the pipework and electric cables, infecting not only conversation but transaction, warmth, views, feelings, tasks, skills and life-itself, that which is void of all essence? You imagine. Lull yourself into a woken sleep and imagine that one is happy, bored or angry…however you want it needn’t matter for the chance of conclusion is already lost at the door, evaporating.
For give a man a job in which he can reach at least some form of conclusion. For the designer views his completed design, there to aid a business; the schoolteacher witnesses the growth of a student and watches as they leave the doors an adult; the baker knows his loaf will fill a stomach; the lawyer helps towards accommodation or strife; the builder constructs and the doctor heals…but what of the third party, the tired middle man handling the transactions, those on low wages and low energy dealing with the most mundane of life’s quandaries. Those working jobs in which one day is sewn seamlessly into the next, each and every action part of a repeatable conveyor belt planned for years to come, in fact their very future is already jotted before their very eyes on posters, emails, memos, booklets, pamphlets, reviews and store announcements, in fact the very idea of spontaneity and difference is entirely alien to these kinds of jobs. Day by day, minute by minute, second by second, the job itself acts as the most monotonously exhausting filler in existence. Repetition so unified one’s being begins to disintegrate.
“True heroism is minutes, hours, weeks, year upon year of the quiet, precise, judicious exercise of probity and care—with no one there to see or cheer. This is the world.” – The Pale King, David Foster Wallace.
Those who’ve been following me for a while will know of my love for Foster Wallace’s work, yet, I feel this is an area he has hastily suffocated into an idealistic box. I do not feel however, as I imagine many will, that his use of the word ‘heroism’ is a grave overstatement, no, for from his perspective it rings true. Yet, I still would replace it with the word ‘submission’. True submission is to accept one’s fate at the claw of a machine the size of which you cannot comprehend, to act as if true defeat of all possibilities – actual and metaphysical – is a lifesaving gift, that, the small town job you were just offered is something of a complement, an addition, a part of life all must partake and continue without overt scorn, noise or frustration, neither towards the ‘gift’ itself or the giver.
“No one there to see or cheer.” Indeed, because no one waits in the hallways of life, you’ll find very few sane people standing around talking to clerks or bin-men, there’s little time to lean against within the hospitality sections of the world for risk of losing one’s energy and charisma, alongside the fact of course that there is “No one there to see or cheer.” Because everyone else is also at their occupation of ‘choice’, dwindling their resources and energy over some small bureaucratic form which seems pointless to them but they must feign care in fear of expulsion. Not just expulsion from the job, no, that in itself is a strange gift. No, fear of some form of failure, that other’s perceptions will change and all that surrounds will begin to crumble. And so Foster Wallace continues:
“The truth is that the heroism of your childhood entertainments was not true valor. It was theatre. The grand gesture, the moment of choice, the mortal danger, the external foe, the climactic battle whose outcome resolves all–all designed to appear heroic, to excite and gratify and audience. Gentlemen, welcome to the world of reality–there is no audience. No one to applaud, to admire. No one to see you. Do you understand? Here is the truth–actual heroism receives no ovation, entertains no one. No one queues up to see it. No one is interested.” – DFW
I understand Foster Wallace’s point here, that there truly is something so be said for those who help others with no promise of reward or thanks. No one is interested because the community has been disassembled, no one’s interested because the majority have become disenfranchised…no one is interested because those shows you speak of that taught us the stereotypical form of heroism numbed our senses into a predictable mulch. Foster Wallace is only striving for an answer to the mundanity of reality much the way we all are, and often I feel his material/physical answer is far more applicable than Camus’. For at least therein from the acceptance one can continue in a direction with their spine intact, not bowing down to a laughable whine.
Camus writes: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” And that’s where we are left, our imagination is our only shelter from the world, imagination and belief that we and others are happy in our needless pursuits and exertions. For as we begin to push the infinitesimal boulder for another day we click in a hook to each side of our mouths and grin wide as our skin is pulled by force. The beginning of each and every day is submission and nothing more. Make of it what you will. Grin without hooks when possible, but never imagine, never hope for the happiness of another or oneself (if happiness is your aim in life), either make it so or wonder what of other directions, purposes and possibilities.
Camus writes “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” I say fuck that. Imagine Sisyphus angry, mad, sad or even melancholy that he once again has to tackle this clunky metaphorical boulder.