the tamago report

Eggs benedictated

Month: May, 2013

The Cult of Hard Working

by MDY

I thought I’d be a lifetime member. Working triple-time was hard at first, but the reward – the warm flush of egotism that comes from hyper-productivity – was electrifying, a thrilling substitute for commonplace quiescence. The appeal was in the control. This validation came without dependence on other people – lovers, friends, parent-figures. All it ran on was deadlines and the clack of thoughts on plastic keys. Whenever I needed to fill the void – which was, is often – I could spin around, survey my columns of dutiful invoices, and tell myself “I have really made something of myself.”

At first, it was an exclusive sect. Then others began, by dint of ambition or circumstance or just plain growing-older, to taste the thrill of martyrdom. I’d hear more tales of people staying back late, of sacrifices to family and friendships, of who was working longer and harder and (always there, rarely said yet always there) who received more recompense. All sung with the same trill of boastful suffering: “see, oh see, how hard it must be!/I’m working so hard, I’m so proud of me!” It gripped me with revulsion: not for reasons pure of heart, but because I was no longer the best, no longer the only one. The cult had been broke wide open.

I struggled for a while. Like Brutus in a garden of forked tongues, I stumbled this way and that, calling out in vain. “Give them back,” I would cry, the ghosts of invoices past sleeking past my ears, “give me back my legions!” But all I heard were my own boasts echoed back from a thousand other tie-splattered throats. But soon even their crass company faded away, the chorus trooping elsewhere to find new members who would sing one another’s envious praises.

It took the incident to reboot my system, and even that hasn’t made me immune to the blandishments of Hard Working. That delectable feeling of being in-demand, of being wanted, is edifying and flattering and lascivious all at once. It makes you feel loved, but without the risks and traps of human affection. You’re a tool, lauded not for your personality or even your efficiency, but your commitment – blind, monotonous commitment to entities which are their own reasons for existence. And when you are loved for what you do, you can safely ignore all the cracks and holes and voids which reside in who you are. But the rewards, both monetary and emotional, are subject to the law of diminishing returns.

To the rest of you, I say: Don’t work too long. Don’t work too late. Hijack opportunities and be efficient. Stop caring about appearances, both in the office and the bar. Spend time with your friends, and maybe fall in love with one of them. Traipse around parks in the morning,  or listen to the birds in the evening as they have dinner together and share stories from the day. Exercise. Read more books than those prescribed. Make time for yourself, because no-one else will. In the words of my mother, the source of more than 50% of my wisdom, work smart, not hard.

when words are not enough

by MDY

As the week tapers off, my reader asked me about my perspective on death. As I tried to answer, I thought back to a moment earlier in the week, when I was sitting on the toilet. The patterning of our bathroom floors consists of tiles in three colours. Most of the tiles are white, while a few are either brown or a yellow-green hue, forming not so much a mosaic as a spattering of wan colouration for the toilet-goer to peruse in what is quite literally down-time. I imagined that each of the coloured tiles was a person, and that I was staring down on them. The ones which touched diagonally were like lovers – joined, but easily divided – while those which were linked across an entire side were more akin to brothers, sisters, or even twins. It occurred to me how few coloured tiles ever touched one another. They were mostly lone drops of vigour in an ocean of white.

I tried to answer my reader but it was difficult. Eventually I told her another story, about how I had looked up on a crystal-clear night at the stars and felt myself shrunken down to insignificance like a tile on a bathroom floor. What do those giant burning suns think of us, when they peer down upon our past? She said I expressed myself beautifully, but all I could hear was the hollowness of my eloquence, echoing back and forth inside my skull like the trickle of a tap: “You’re both going to die! Going to die die die!”

Every morning, the bunny who lives next door watches me walk away. He lives on a balcony high up from the ground, but I can still see his nose twitch and his eyes following mine, black pinpricks in a mound of chequerboard fur. I want to ask him what he thinks of death, and if he ever crawls out from his hutch to watch the stars traverse the road to expiration. I want my reader to see into the caverns of my ribcage, hear what dissonance of my thoughts echoes with fake pensiveness in my hollow-man’s brain. Die rhymes with eye rhymes with lie, lie, lie. But each time I seek the words, they look upon me with forgiveness as I stumble, fall, and fail them. So I smile at the bunny and wave at him instead, hoping that he understands.