Wisdom and the 8-hour day
by Ben Stone
What I have to say in this article could easily be misunderstood and could bring offence to people who I would never want to offend. For that reason I ask the reader to be kind to this old man and indulge me with some leniency before you reject me as a senile old fart.
At the age of nineteen, and through an odd series of circumstances, I landed a job working in a chemical factory. I worked day to day with old men, many at or above the age of 60, who had spent the majority of their adult life right there in that factory. I took great pleasure is sitting with these old guys listening to them talk. I would nudge them with questions about their lives and about their outlook on things and at all times and all subjects I would allow them to express themselves without the slightest contradiction on my part. At the time I believed that these old gentlemen were endowed by their years with wisdom and if I could drag it out of them the lessons I could learn would give me an advantage as I walked my path in life. However after having worked there eight years I came to the conclusion that most of the old men in that chemical plant were simply fools and not in the least acquainted with wisdom. After all, they spent their life working in that hellhole, how wise could they be? So I quit and changed career paths.
Much like my father before me, I moved from place to place and from this job to that, dragging my family from state to state. Over the course of years I worked farm labor, ran a black-market business, delivered pizzas, framed houses, shoveled quicklime in tunnels, managed restaurants, worked in a lab, owned two construction companies, sold and installed window coverings, built custom computers and networks, and worked on a variety of projects for the Department of Defense and NASA before landing a dream job in the development/engineering division of a major aircraft engine manufacture. In January of 2003 I worked my last 8-hour day of my last 5-day week. My body had given its all to earning a living for my family and myself and it simply could go no further.
I won’t bore you with the various stages of mourning, denial, boredom, frustration, anger, and acceptance of a physical disability in this writing. Rather I would like to tell you about a discovery I made after I had time to sit back and reflect upon my adventures. I never stopped seeking wisdom when I left that wretched chemical plant. With each job and with each new location I kept an eye pealed for individuals who stood out from the herd. Thinkers, but not just smart people with their heads packed full of facts. I watched for people who could think beyond what they had been taught, and I found a few. But only a few. And they weren’t necessarily the people one would expect. In a laboratory packed with chemists and engineers, I found an atheist repairman with deep consistent morals and convictions. I bumped into a musician gifted with wisdom beyond his years, and among brilliant aerospace engineers I found a self-proclaimed “neck-downer” that possessed thoughts inconceivable to those around him. In my retirement, as I pondered all that I learned and filtered it through the luxury of hindsight, I saw the secret. Hidden from me for years while plainly in front of me the whole time.
Have I stirred your interest? I hope I have and I hope I don’t let you down when I reveal this obvious truth.
You see, the 8-hour day/5-day week and the routine that supports it floods and starves the brain of dopamine, rewarding the most boring behavior while punishing the brain for free formed thoughts. Our daily routine teaches us not to think.
We wake up in an entirely unnatural manner that mimics an emergency. We frantically rush around the house in a half daze; never fully alert, then climb in our motorized coffins and join the driving brain dead for the morning commute.
Over the course of the typical 8-hour workday the average American job utilizes very little thought. Employers constantly seek methods and gadgets that remove the opportunity for employees to think or make decisions. As they do so employees find less and less mental stimulation and become poorer in decision-making skills. All the while the clock ticks and anticipation builds for that magic moment when it’s time to climb back into the wheeled coffin and sit in traffic.
The worker arrives home to a house where each member of the family has gone through a variation of the same daily brain-draining dopamine bath.
I could go on to talk about how we sadly attempt to fill our weekends and vacations with stimulation and entertainment that simply distract us from our pain and boredom like methadone distracts the addict, but I think you get my point.
This whole routine acts to destroy the body while stupefying the mind, until the day we turn a magic retirement age, physically useless and half-witted awaiting death. This is why it’s almost impossible to awaken the mindless herds to their own enslavement. The whole system is designed to keep us from thinking straight, and the longer you’re in the 8-hour system the less likely you will be to think freely and accept new thoughts and new ideas.
Wow! That’s some gloomy crap!
I’ll bet right now you’re saying, “Thanks Ben! How about you cheer me up with a picture of a dead puppy!”
I can do better than that.
I can tell you what to do to keep this from happening to you.
Get out of debt! Start with your smallest credit card or other type of debt, and do everything you need to do to get it paid off as soon as possible. Eat mashed potato sandwiches twice a week if you have to. Cut your lifestyle to the bone and pay off your debt. Pay off the littlest bill first, then put all the money you were paying on that bill to pay off the second smallest. This may take years, but stick to it like your life depends on it because it does! Debt is the biggest reason people stay chained to a job they hate. If you break the chains of debt you take the first step to the freedom of owning yourself again.
Once debt free, you begin to look at that 8-hour a day job not as a necessity, but simply as an obstacle to overcome.
Once free of the 8-hour/5-day cycle, a period of “detox” will occur. Anywhere from a few months to over a year may be required before your brain will begin to function normally as it was designed. Eventually you’ll start to notice things around you that you never saw before. Like a muscle that hasn’t been used, your brain will slowly start to learn how to learn again. But be warned; some things will lose their appeal. Things like Televisions and newspapers may not shine as bright once your brain starts functioning.
As for reaching out to those trapped in that system and its mind numbing cycles, great patience is required to reach them. Once a person stays chained to this process and slides past a certain point they will be hard if not impossible to reach. They won’t be able to think clear enough to ponder the basic principals of liberty and freedom. At some point during middle age, having learned nothing genuinely new for 20 to 30 years, the mind will circle its intellectual wagons, draw out its weapons, and fiercely defend its blissful ignorance.