Laborare est Orare

Some old Roman first coined this phrase. It translates as ‘Work is Prayer’. We have discussed the ‘sweat of our brows’ and the need for us to earn livings. But this article is about our offering up what we do, our occupation and labours, in goodwill to God as a gift in thanks for his care over us.

The Anglican Liturgy says it:

‘All things come of Thee
And of Thine own do we give Thee’

There is for work to be prayer a necessary condition to be met: that any such offering made to God is a freewill offering; that it is offered without ulterior intentions attached to the giving and without bad grace shown towards to him. Thus work as prayer arises out of our own sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in our work. Unless this is so we have no sense of gratitude for it having been provided to us to do; and have not accepted a gift as being a challenge allowed us to master, so to do and complete it as we are best able to perform.

Thus work done as attached to the prime aim of reward is unable to be prayer. Work done solely for money say is the work of the timeserver. Work done for ambition is the work of the power-seeker; and work done for the esteem of others is the work of the egoist.

I guess we are all in part and at times the timeserver, the power seeker and the egoist, and that some days we pray better than other days in our work. I want now to talk about some guys and girls I have seen on TV, in what are figuratively called ‘fly on the wall’ programmes, programmes which lead a viewer to an insider’s view of a certain aspect of life.

The programmes had in common that they followed plain inglorious people doing plain inglorious jobs – such as railway station assistants whose job was to help and guide soccer fans to their home destinations after a big match. Other jobs were the guys who keep the underground sewers systems of cities clear and running; and guys who collect and dispose of household garbage.

All are pretty lowly jobs in the esteem of the ordinary person; dirty, or else hassle, or else laborious; or a combination of these things. The people doing them don’t get much status or kudos from the public – not in the same way as the star or the celebrity or the self made industrialist gets celebrated, admired, envied, feted and emulated.

Their jobs are done better for lack of their celebration; and celebration is perhaps a major life distraction for those who claim it or crave it from us? These guys and girls were nobodies; and happy to be nobodies. They, to a person, were engaged, well-disposed to and happy in their work, and contented with their situation at the base of society’s ranks of esteem; but nonetheless doing well a job of importance and skill and application; and in many ways difficult.

If money, as wages, were a factor in their lives then many of them would have moved on some years ago. Of course they wanted to earn and needed to earn but they got by on what they got and so were in that sense and to that extent at one with their lots.

I don’t want to paint them as being saints, and so paint the ‘go for it’ guys as sinners; I don’t want to be that black and white about things. It is a matter of emphasis, of inclination and disposition, as is seen in comparing the ‘go-getter’ whose aims and aspirations are ever troubling them as their desires stretch out and recede the greater they are being realised by them; and comparing this tortuous syndrome with the guy or girl who accepts some imposed limits and knows her/his own limitations, and so compromises (but not on life?) in trading off in return for an amount of contentment, satisfaction, a certain amount of self-determination and plain wellbeing; the enjoyment of the pleasures and snares of wealth, position, reputation, influence and so on.

In other words, the trade off and its acceptance is a reflection of the person concerned; of his/her disposition and character; as well as it being a circumstance which reinforces and develops that same character and disposition. Thus a ‘go-getter’ typically wants in the first place and grows by the circumstance of his life situation to want ever more greatly; whereas a more staid person generally settles for less, and gets added in a touch of serenity; so as to grow in that choice of situation to become more settled and more serene. This is at least the generality which I believe holds good in many instances.

Thus our life-choices define and direct us.

A girl working at the railway after the big game was ushering people to their trains when a drunken woman became agitated and was rude to her. Policy was that drunks were to be asked to sit on a bench and sober on the platform before embarking. The station girl kept unruffled and was decent to the drunken lady and sat her down after explaining the policy. Two hours later the now-sobered lady cam to the girl who had ushered her, and she apologised, and kissed the girl’s cheek demurely. The girl gave her a lovely smile and brushed off the apology by ‘that’s ok’.

Later the same girl usher was interviewed for the programme, and she spoke of how she loved the work and about the sense of usefulness and the emotional rewards of seeing people home safely. No rancour. No resentments. No sweat.

The girl was no more than thirty; and she was typical. She showed and shared typically the characteristics of the crews of sewer unblockers and the teams of garbage disposal men in the other two ‘fly on the wall’ programmes; the same sense of modest pride in themselves for doing socially-vital services, as it were unsung and without display or fuss. All showed the same gentle good humour and a fairly modest but solid self-esteem – built obviously from the inside – from their own secure estimation of their own worths based on a fairly dispassionate focussed self-assessment. To have come this far in life at thirty the girl was astonishingly precocious; and her sewer and garbage colleagues too had attained an impressive level of understanding of life.

Thus there was room, even though they may not have owned to there being so, but only because of a lack of a formal education, for them to have called their kinds of services they were providing to their community, diverse versions of ‘laborare est orare’. Coleridge wrote:

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

Simply put, our good service to others is a fulfilment of the laws of life and of love which underpin and maintain our world. The Lord Jesus goes as far as to say that together with a due reverence given to God, on this kind of freewill offering of service to others:

‘hangs all the law and the prophets’

You can also find this article at our Steemit blog: https://steemit.com/business/@matthew.raymer/laborare-est-orare

How much does Job Satisfaction Cost?

Of course these qualities Cost and Satisfaction are two distinct values which have psychological links but zero logical connection to one another (nonetheless you can bet there’s a statistical chart somewhere proposing to correlate the two on the vector of alternate Mondays!)

The economist calls the kind of either/or choice posed by this question, which is the daily dilemma for so many – especially those in web development work and in analogues of that industry – they call it a decision based on assessing ‘opportunity cost’.

What this ‘opportunity cost’ is in a few words – it is – in the case of this choice – commonly the value to oneself of what one would rather be doing set against the value of retaining a (harassing) job which pays for the necessaries and more of one’s life.

And so ‘opportunity cost’ here is a subjective weighing of relative strengths of value to oneself. That is to say, that when you become like Popeye and you have come to a point where ‘you can stands so much and you can’t stands no more’ and you walk out and quit; then at this point the opportunity cost of doing your own thing has shifted its balance in favour of your preference for freedom, for your independence, and embraces the risks involved in ‘going for it’.

The Scots poet John Barbour wrote a short but memorable paean to freedom in his epic poem on the exploits of Robert the Bruce

A! Fredome is a noble thing!                     Ah, freedom is a noble thing

Fredome mays man to haiff liking;          Freedom makes man to have liking

Fredome all solace to man giffis,             Freedom all solace to man gives 

He levys at ese that frely levys!                 He lives at ease who freely lives

A noble hart may haiff nane ese,              A noble heart may have nought else

Na ellys nocht that may him plese,           Nor anything else may him please

Gyff fredome fail; for fre liking                 If freedom fails; for free liking 

Is yarnyt our all othir thing.                      Is yearned for over all other things

Na he that ay has levyt fre                         And he that has always lived free

May nocht knaw weill the propyrtè,         Will not know well the property

The angyr, na the wretchyt dome             Of anger nor the wretched doom

That is couplyt to foule thyrldome.          That couples up to foul thraldom

Bot gyff he had assayit it,                          But if he’s had a taste of it

Than all perquer he suld it wyt;               Then it all by heart he should know

And suld think fredome mar to prise        And should prize freedom far more

Than all the gold in warld that is.            Than all the gold in the world

Thus contrar thingis evirmar                   Thus contrary things are evermore

Discoweryngis off the tothir ar.                Discoverings of their opposites

The poem gives a good picture of what loss of freedom costs.

Wherever a person is employed working for another person – maybe there are a very few exceptions – there ever arises that essential clash between the business’s needs (including its goals) and doing one’s job – for want of a better word – ‘properly’. This clash is grounded on a deeper foundation and arises out of it. This deeper foundation is the sale along with one’s labour of one’s free will; and this sale, although it is not supposed to happen to democratic citizens in democratic societies, is the norm and part and parcel of what one is constrained to sign up for when one is hired by another.

The constraint might be couched in terms of ‘the business being bigger than any single person in it’ or else as one needing to be ‘a good team player’ or else more bluntly, as ‘I pay the wages and so I say what goes and doesn’t go’.  Generally the larger the business the more attempt is made to disguise the root violence in such an oppression.  Big business uses what George Orwell called ‘the iron fist in the velvet glove’.  Certainly the more like a small family-run business one’s employment is; then the higher likelihood of one feeling valued, free, and happy there – the more job satisfaction one will enjoy.

With business largeness comes always alongside it impersonality – the essential heart in human relations is knocked out of things and so recedes; like Patrick Macgoohan one experiences employment as if one were become a number and so a prisoner.

In the same way the Absolutist monarchs of 17th and 18th century Europe (and on other continents) –  acted just as Louis XIV of France, who gaily decide to build a great Palace at Versailles on boggy land totally unsuitable for such a building, and against the advice of all his advisors; and he accomplished this by dragooning vast numbers of peasant subjects into unpaid drudgery for years on end, and working to death a high proportion of them on the way, and him arguing with his architects and yet getting his will despite all lack of deference to local conditions and to practical considerations.   In just the same way as all this kind of madness and wilful stupidity appears in the same way it did in ancient regime type setups, one will likelise find oneself enslaved and held hostage by,  and enduring all the same threats and menaces, when one is a brick in the wall at a large corporation.

And just like Louis XIV liked it to be known ‘he had built’ Versailles – and so it was not the hordes of ordinary folk who lost their lives who built it – corporations proclaim likewise their Brand names and logos as though they are trophies and them champions in the fields of rivalries – whilst the people who developed and manufacture their products remain a grey anonymous swarm of nobodies.

(Tune: ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’)

 Forward Joe Soap’s army, marching without fear,

With our old commander, safely in the rear

He boasts and skives from morn till night,

And thinks he’s very brave,

But the men who really did the job are dead and in their grave.

Forward Joe Soap’s army, marching without fear,

With our old commander, safely in the rear

Amen.

It is often the case that drunkards are able to formulate better policy, and the guys paid to do policy can’t organise a binge in a brewery, and in fact they know next to nothing about the detail, and zero on the finer detail, involved in the tasks they pronounce upon and which employees are expected to perform and deliver to them.

This is the ‘charisma’ of executive office – the qualities by which and because of which these guys have got so far up the management ladder – they just blagged their ways up, having sent all the correct coded signals to their superiors (?) and said yes to all the required soul-selling in the company terms and conditions – happy, even satisfied, with – what it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to call – a ‘half-life’.

And that is exactly what they pass down the line to the likes of you – their ‘half-life’ priorities – I baulk to call them values – their hopeless deadlines, and their obsession with how the company appears and comes off in the press and media– a kind of hall of mirrors world wherein nothing and no-one is reflected as they are at NTP.

Ramp this up and extrapolate it worldwide – thus is the ’victory’ of the free market and its open competition (worth yet another few articles these presumptions!) – and one is overwhelmed with the enormity of an Alice in Wonderland type bizarre surrealist Pandemonium raging everywhere – the Mad Hatter CEOs ever calling the changes of places – the absence of tea at their everlasting tea parties – the quibbles about words and the subsequent quagmires of conundrums these raise – and the raging Queen of Hearts roaring like a top executive shouting “Off with his head! Off with his head!’ to everyone and anyone within their purlieu who blinks in the wrong fashion – it is all here – the madness – all going under the guise of ‘open for business’.

The armchair punters who feel it is their prerogative and capability to pontificate on such modes of (dis)organisation and who, in order to stay on their gravy trains, will as soon as look at you proclaim that this is the natural order of things and that it is human nature at work and being reflected in a crazy global jamboree of depredation.

I tend to want to assume we went badly wrong somewhere, took a dreadful wrong turning some way back, and now we have so far bought-into and so rigidly have locked ourselves onto a nightmare merry-go-round treadmill of insanity; that were there even the will here amongst us to bring us back from the awful bedlam and precipice of insanity, with its universally embraced pointlessness and gladsome absurdity, we could hardly achieve such a reformation for ourselves.

The assumed trade-off – of wage slavery in return for the pick of a large array of dime-shop knickknacks and gewgaws which are in no way essential to life and are mostly sad distractions – this results always in a surprised disappointment and at the last always amounts to a great immovable regret for a life that one has failed to live.

A poor man who fears God, is more honourable and happy, than a man without wisdom and grace, however rich or advanced in rank.  What good can the soul do, if without knowledge? And he sins who will not take time to ponder the path of his feet.

 

You can also find this article at our steemit blog: https://steemit.com/economy/@matthew.raymer/how-much-does-job-satisfaction-cost

Seductive Scams

In the past few years I have been almost duped by two separate scams.  It was only a certain caution and the years of experience of doing business with people and companies which encouraged my suspicions and so caused me to investigate further and in the end to make right decisions.

The two scams appealed to their potential victim in opposite ways; one being a fabricated cry for help from an email apparently sent by a friend of mine; the other attempted to prey upon my more selfish parts of human motivation.

If there is one thing a person soon learns in life it is to look gift horses from strangers in the mouth.  Of course the Internet has made this maxim doubly relevant, since so many items are offered ‘free of charge’ or else are couched as ‘amazing offers and deals’ etc.

The present ‘get Windows 10 gratis’ offer from Microsoft does not look to be all it seems. Beware of Geeks bearing gifts. The license one is being offered for Windows 10 is non transferrable to any other piece of hardware. (I suspect also that there are other additional commercial reasons for Microsoft pitching its Windows 10 free offer, although I can’t say what they are? Corporations just don’t throw away potential commercial exploitation of new products).

And when one goes hunting on the web for a driver or an anti-virus and the attractiveness of so many free of charge items draws you to them, tempting one’s better reason and playing on ones self-concupiscence and parsimony; it is relatively easy to end up with quite a bit of junk you never wanted downloaded to your PC; or else for one to have given away so much saleable personal data about oneself in order to get the download.  The lesson is, that although there is to be no ostensible money transaction taking place between yourself and the guys offering you the freebies which you are in need of; there will in fact be a transaction of monetisable items going on ‘under the counter ‘and ‘behind one’s back’.

So a tip; go for the guys who ask for ‘a small donation’ in return for them giving you the ‘freebie’. And further, give them that ‘small donation’ because they are more than likely to have been ‘up front’ with you about their terms for downloading their stuff.  Also these guys are far less likely to throw in unwanted stuff (at least not without informing you beforehand) and are not usually seeking out personal data from you to sell it on for profit.

One usually doesn’t get malware in these downloads; for the wiseacres to sneak that in would be counter-productive to them in running these kind of sleights of hand; they need to keep punters ‘on-side’ so as to be able to exploit them quietly and in a small way; so that for them ‘many a mickle will eventually make for them a muckle’.

Like the guys who steal some of your virtual space on your PC; they only want enough so you won’t notice, otherwise their plans are scuppered, because otherwise you as their punters discover it and take action to erase their presence from your PCs.  The art in this kind of stealing by offering free downloads is to restrain oneself from being too greedy, and to be not too hasty to grab more than is able to go unnoticed.

Of course you get hasty and greedy guys but they get thwarted in their plans all the time; and they soon either learn patience and a greater stealth or else leave the business.  The smart guys restrain their appetites for others’ property and so make a fist of their operations and succeed in them, generally speaking.

But scammers like the two I began writing about are rather more manipulative and ambitious with managing human sympathies and appetites than the freebie download people generally are.  For these it is not about a quick and fairly plain interaction with a punter who is out for grabbing a download; it is more about an art of pretence and mimesis; so as to arouse say decent human feeling in order to provoke an equivalent and appropriate response from a sucker.  Going under guise of one of your friends they might email you saying:

‘Jonny, help! I got mugged an hour back and I’ve got no money. I’m in Dallas on business. My notebook is nearly out of power and I’m on a free wifi spot. Can you wire me $500 to get me home? To this local store on xxxxxx (the contact details follow)’

 The White Knight in each of us rises to the rescue – to the bait.  We feel almost blackmailed by our own sense of the wringer in appearances informing our private self that it is appropriate for our public self to respond with the money in this situation. One should not question or suspect. It is a buddy; and he needs help!

Like indoctrinated regimented recruits in Joe Soap’s Army we stand by our injured fellows on the principle of being co-opted to do so; and we pride ourselves on our fierce ethic and its noble selflessness.  It’s almost like throwing money away, into the lap of crooks; and all for the sake of looking the part to one’s community, and so avoiding a dreadful stigma arising from any refusal to pay up, a stigma raised up and fully indulged in amongst one’s local crowd, who will bring down a unified humiliation upon you otherwise via an absolute communal condemnation and ostracism.  To refuse to help is signing one’s own social-life’s death warrant.

I have heard the eternal footman hold my coat and snigger’

So the conmen are savvy and sly; they know the drill, and use the hooks and handles by which people are hung up and puppeteered upon.  Even to query such an email would smack of heresy.

The other set of guys at the other scam played me from another angle; drawing upon my secretive and grasping side.  I got an enquiry asking to do a website for a guy. From where the inquiry came and by whose reference the guy was led to me I was not certain. I was a little short of work and I had put as many feeler irons in the fire as I could muster; so it could have been out of one of many sources.

I wrote him a requirement document according to the information he had given me.  (The guy was claiming to be deaf, and so unable easily to Skype or to Hangout etc; which of course with hindsight I saw was so as to avoid contact with me.)

The first doubts came for me when he accepted the Requirement Document and the price and hours estimate without a haggle or a blink of an eye. Then he offered payment up front; offering his credit card details for me to deduct my fee AND for me to draw extra over my fee and send it back to him.  A quick Google using some of the salient parts of his initial email to me – the deaf bit and some other distinctive data from it; and hey presto! Others were reporting having had approaches from pretty much the same curious clientele, the ruse was well publicised on forums and on notice boards on the web.

So this guy was laundering stolen credit cards by way of me – if I had fallen for it. My name on the transaction; me responsible in law; and he away untraceable scot free

The lure of the fast buck; of the easy money; and the pressure of secret surges of avarice which we all have to repress so as to be able to do fair trading.

Hamlet-like, by these Guildensterns, I was being played upon:

HAMLET:  [Re-enter Players with recorders] O, the recorders! let me see one. To withdraw with you: — why do you go about to recover the wind of me, as if you would drive me into a toil?

GUILDENSTERN      O, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly

HAMLET                    I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?

GUILDENSTERN      My lord, I cannot.

HAMLET                    I pray you.

GUILDENSTERN      Believe me, I cannot.

HAMLET                    I do beseech you.

GUILDENSTERN      I know no touch of it, my lord.

HAMLET                    ‘Tis as easy as lying: govern these ventages with your fingers and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.

GUILDENSTERN      But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony; I have not the skill.

HAMLET                    Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass: and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ; yet cannot you make it speak. ‘Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.

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The Importance of Clarity 2

 

The Importance of Clarity 2

Clarity in communications starts in one’s head. The value of giving over time and consideration to a work one is planning to execute, and so mulling things over, even sleeping on them, without any accompanying sense of haste or necessity, is much undervalued in a world where business is done on the hoof and demand drives by way of an urgent consumer desire for fulfilment of orders placed.

The idea that one is able to save time and work in the mid to longer term by shunting right up front a certain amount of mental legwork and precaution, sounds almost like a foreign language to many business persons; like a risk that is gambled on and which might not ‘pay off’.

When Woody in Toy Story 2 is being repaired and refurbished by the little hunched old guy with the hand lens and the watch repair toolkit and buffing equipment, and his customer, Al of Al’s Toy Barn, is breathing anxiously over his shoulders and willing him to go faster and to make it snappy – the little hunched old guy replies to Al; ‘You can’t rush art’. And this is a truth.

Conversely what is rushed and fretted over to get it done fast is too often a recipe for a need to backtrack and pick up at a point earlier whereabouts a shortcut or a stopgap was made or put in place so as to ‘save time’. But it has not been up to the task and has necessitated even more time taken backtracking than an unrushed job would have taken in the first place.

And will the customer pay for this ‘enforced error’ on your part; and for the diagnosis of it, and for the remedial work to fix it, and for the hours at $50 per hour to do all this? No, he will tell you it is your baby and you should take care of it and that you should foot the bill for it. And you have no argument to counter him with.

So clarity begins in one’s head. Get it clear in your mind first before you pick up a thread to sew or a code to write. Think it through first, in as far as you feel you are able to do so, look out for prospective pitfalls, and for things like optimum time management and deployment of your resources and crews. There is much that can be accomplished and much else that can be avoided simply by taking thought before one begins to act.

Here one is able to take a tip from those military personnel, who are not the greatest guys in the world maybe and maybe do a lot of harm; but they always and without fail never react and only respond to developments and situations in a war zone on the ground. The guys who are the strategic responders are the top brass. The guys who are the tactical responders are the officer class. Both sorts of forces guy are taught, selected, trained, until it is second nature, so that they never, never ever, act immediately in response to an adverse or even a lucky turn of events.

You hear the saying ‘Time is of the essence’ and this is a true saying; but not as one generally applies it. The forces guys will sit it out and consider on choices of action and think them through to likely prospective outcomes – scenarios as we call them in our civil language – even when there is a cut off point like a deadline or an ultimatum they will sit and ponder and debate so as to use best the time they have available for them to get into their heads the option which has the most desired likely outcome for them. In this way ‘Time is of the essence’ and not as a mad rush to stop a leak and so bring the whole working system crashing down.

‘In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions that a minute will reverse’

Military leaders and officers are very deliberately selected by buttonholing those guys who remain cool – under fire – under pressure to act – in emergencies. We don’t have the kinds of pressures they can face; but we can take a leaf from their book and learn from them about making a note of the time we have available and using it in the most efficient, effective and beneficial ways. And often the most efficient, effective and beneficial ways entail a good deal of time that is available being used by us to plan ahead and to try to pre-empt problems and errors.

So, once again, get it clear in your head your plan of action; choose it as the best choice from the options you have mustered. Once the way forward is mapped out, even say, skeletally, in your mind; then the writing down of requirement documents and of specifications and communications with customers are far less difficult to deal with.

One still has the oily hydra of language to handle and to try to subdue into allowing you to say what you want to say; but you do have a good idea about what it is you want to say, and so this means that that much more of your mental faculties are available and freed–up to be able to tackle intently this hydra of language and expression. For certain, when one does not know what one desires to say, and does not have a sketched out plan of action at least in germ in one’s mind, then one’s documentation is inevitably going to suffer and suffer badly.

Your plan or plans do not have to be rock solid and locked into a predetermined universe; there is always room for amendment and elaboration or revision up the road. If a person, even a military man, could see the future in fine detail it would be inhuman and unnatural. The old saying is:

‘There’s many a slip
Between the cup and the lip’

And so just as nothing written down is able exactly and absolutely to convey the whole shooting match of what one wanted to say, let alone what has been written being able exactly and fully to be representative of works as they are planned and envisaged to be done, nor yet as they are eventually done; likewise nothing ever transpires quite exactly as it is premeditated, or even as it was thought best to transpire at that time when one was without the benefit of hindsight.

These facts mean that one must not be afraid to modify, adjust, alter, add, take away, reconfigure etc etc, at any time; not only during actual building of works but also in one’s documentation and in the words one uses to write it.

The Renaissance English poet Edmund Spenser devoted the last Cantos (aptly uncompleted) of his epic ‘The Faerie Queene’ to the topic of ‘Mutabilitie’ whom he personifies as a female; saying of her:

‘For, she the face of earthly things so changed,
That all which Nature had establisht first
In good estate, and in meet order ranged,
She did pervert, and all their statutes burst:
And all the worlds faire frame (which none yet durst
Of Gods or men to alter or misguide)
She alter’d quite, and made them all accurst
That God had blest; and did at first prouide
In that still happy state for euer to abide’

And so for mere mortals like us to get things 95%+ well-executed, whether in writing or in the actual building, is work well done, and perhaps the best to be hoped for in such a mutable world as ours?

 

You can also find this article at our steemit blog: https://steemit.com/communication/@matthew.raymer/the-importance-of-clarity-2