Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Monotony is a most beautiful and most atrocious thing

Simone Weil, in the 1940's, went off to work in Parisian factories. She did this out of necessity, but from the experience wrote some of her most powerful work, including the essays, the mysticism of work, and the prerequisite to dignity of labour. In both essays she remarked that monotony, an inevitability of work, is both the most beautiful and most atrocious thing. A circle is a symbol of monotony, but also of the divine and the eternal - it is beautiful.  It is  a source of life because it contains its own purpose. It accomplishes itself but does not end. A swinging pendulum, on the other hand, is a symbol of monotony, but it is atrocious. Its purpose it always just out of sight, so distant it seems it will never come to fruition. It counts life away.

For me, life since the end of August has been marked by monotony. I have been working in order to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. Working to live, not living to work. It is hard. It is hard not because the working is hard, but because there seems little reason to follow the instructions you are given except for a material need for money, food and shelter. Sometimes you feel like telling someone to 'F*** Off', but you can't, because if you do, it will not be possible for you to come back and put yourself through the same thing this time tomorrow. Don't get me wrong, I have worked in boring jobs before, but always with a sense of where I was going and what I was about to do. I love to work, and work with a passion, when I have a real sense of mission.

How do you get back the sense of the beautiful in something that has become atrociously monotonous? I suspect the answer lies in something at the heart of what it means to be alive - hope. For me, to make the most of each and every opportunity that comes my way, no matter how small, or how daunting it appears, I have to see hope within it. No one ever achieved their greatest ambition overnight. No  good philosopher, saint, artist, musician, artisan, writer or dedicated practitioner of any trade or profession, woke up one day and thought - I have made it, I am now the best I am ever going to be. The secret is in in hoping that today you can do the best you can for the day that is in it; in hoping you will bring only good to each and every minute. When that happens, it doesn't matter even if you are engaged in the most boring job in the world, tasked with something you thought you would never have to do, atrocious monotony seeps away and beautiful monotony emerges. Every second of every moment is a treasure, a time in which you can show a glimmer of everything you were ever born to be. 

No comments: