Home Work

  • In his 1932 essay “In Praise of Idleness,” philosopher Betrand Russell defined work as being “of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relative to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so.”
  • People who tell other people to do so are known as bosses.
  • For many people, work is a permanent (or semi-permanent) relationship with an organization known as a job, formalized with salary and benefits. For many people, work consists of “holding down a job,” suggesting that jobs tend to fly away if released. For some, holding down a job is itself hard work, particularly for those who drink before breakfast.
  • In physics work can be expressed as a formula: W = F x d, where work is a constant force of magnitude Fapplied on a point that moves a distance d in the direction of the force. Like Michael Oher when you rile him up.
  • In some restaurants where the butter comes in little foil packets, servers say to a patron who has stopped eating but has not finished a meal: “Are you still working on that?”
  • One of the most famous lines of work ever is Li’l Abner’s job in Al Capp’s comic strip “Li’l Abner.” The job is mattress tester. His other job is cutting the crescent moons in the doors of outhouses.
  • Someone who does not conform to societal standards is sometimes referred to as a piece of work. As in “Hey look, Otts put lawn chairs out in the street again to save a parking space. What a piece of work.”
  • In nature, animals perform no work, in the human sense. Or, they are working all the time, in the animal sense. Take your pick. Either way, Charles Darwin, in Chapter Three of The Origin of Species, wrote: “When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.” Darwin is clearly not referring to the human species, of course, and certainly not to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
  • A biologist’s work is never done. The Smithsonian Magazine reports that the estimated percentage of marine species not yet identified is 91. The estimated percentage of land species not yet identified is 86. And you thought your email box at work was full after a vacation.
  • Whenever work goes badly, people say—rhetorically—and with some irony: “That’s why they call it work.” Minor example: a mail carrier who continually puts the mail in the wrong mailbox. Major example: the cruise ship captain and crew who manage to roll an entire ocean liner over on its side.
  • In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson coins Parkinson’s Law, which holds that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Parkinson is not, but might have been, referring to the Congress of the United States of America.
  • A euphemism for a female prostitute is working girl. Prostitute is one of the only jobs for which someone is paid to perform a biological function, with the possible exception of food and wine critic.
  • While he did not explicitly include it as one of the five levels in his “hierarchy of needs,” Abraham Maslow would probably acknowledge that another basic human need is meaningful work. That and real bacon bits.
  • Work and play, viewed from a safe distance, can be virtually indistinguishable.
  • In the 1960s, Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney frequently collaborate on their songs, with one supplying the main lyrics and melody, and the other typically writing the “middle eight, “ or bridge. After the Beatles’ success, the work of songwriting takes on a new kind of whimsy; “Now let’s write a swimming pool,” McCartney would say as they sit down to compose a new song. John Lennon just looks at him funny.
  • Paleoanthropologists believe that early humans, in the daily struggle for survival, do not understand the concept of work, probably because the weekend has not been invented yet.
  • Scripture gives man dominion over the earth. His two jobs in the beginning are to a) name everything and then b) be fruitful and multiply, which he does. Like a virus.
  • Man comes up with the idea that his other job is to figure out how everything works. This takes a lot of time and turns out to be completely unnecessary.
  • It turns out, the universe doesn’t need man’s understanding to do its work, thank you very much.

Copyright © 2018, D.R. Belz.

2 thoughts on “Home Work

  • March 6, 2019 at 5:19 PM

    Awesome essay! Dave, it’s obvious you “work”ed on it a lot!

    Maynard G. Krebs would be proud of you… and of course “out” your age, as does your knowledge of Li’l Abner, who none of my “younger” friends — age 60 and below (lmfao) — have even heard of.

  • May 31, 2018 at 3:16 PM

    Bravo … our tumultuous world needs humor. D.R. Belz has always been a master a providing!

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