Yesterday evening we held Session Three of my Carl Jung seminar at IS. Before that, during the afternoon, I was working on my current report for IcebergIQ. And before that, in the early morning, I was reading Sebastian Gardner’s book on Kant and planning a Patreon video based on the book. Are these all work? Should I add more rest to my days? There are probably elements of work in all three activities, but there are also non-work elements in them. What does that mean? What are the work and non-work elements of an activity?

Thinking about work–in general–isn’t easy. Work has a psychological dimension, an economic dimension, a political dimension, a societal dimension, a personal dimension, etc. and it’s easier to perform a reduction to one of these dimensions before we start talking about work, as it’s easier to talk about particular people and their working conditions, rather than talking in general terms. I’d like write, nonetheless, a few general notes, almost in the style of free association.

We sometimes say about an activity, “it doesn’t feel like work,” when it is enjoyable, when it flows, or when we don’t have to endure it. These judgments, I think, are based on a very limited and negative view of work. Something can be work without feeling like work. On the other hand, we might say, “this feels too much like work,” when we think the effort required for the activity is disproportionately high. Sometimes, spending time with family members can feel “too much like work,” although it is unambiguously not work. When I need rest urgently and desperately, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have been working.

At the Jung Seminar, we had a wonderful and interactive group, which is why I offered holding a fourth (bonus) session next Tuesday. The seminar also inspired me to plan another seminar or reading group for next year. Maybe there is a kind of work that itself wants to be done, and being able to do it means giving expression to the drive inherent to the work. In such cases, we are discovering and responding to an inner necessity. If I manage to be in tune with that inner necessity, to express its corresponding drive, justification, and meaning–I find that the work is intrinsically rewarding. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all types of work. And, just because a work is intrinsically rewarding it doesn’t rule out the possibility of exploiting it by others.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

The expression of the drive I am referring to necessarily takes place over time. Thinking about work leads quite naturally to thinking about time, and about how working gives and finds structures in time. The work of holding a seminar structures time differently, compared to the work of writing reports, or the work of video production. Still, working on any of them, I find myself moving along a somewhat cyclical pattern, like a wheel that turns, while also moving forward. I imagine myself to be a point on the circumference of a wheel. While the wheel is moving forward. There is repetition in work, in the structure surrounding work, in the schedule of work, and that repetition is part of what enables change and discovery.

In contrast to the temporal structure (structure over time), there is a structure of relationships among people. Working involves positioning, movement, and exchange. Think, for instance, of a contract or a promotion. With work, we enter into an exchange with other people, with an organization, with the world. I think the inner character of a work needs to match the outer positioning of it in its context. The solitary and detached position an alchemist is congruent with the inner character of his work. Is the alchemist in an actual exchange with the world? Or is he imagining and hoping for a future exchange, a future positioning, a future part in a larger structure?

The fairness and the intensity of exchange can determine how long the work continues and what its outcomes are. Despite how much I enjoyed the Jung seminar, I could not devote myself to that work completely. The same is true about the other work I do–there is a lack in all of them, each lacking in a different way, which is why I am doing all of them. But isn’t part of the work detecting those lacks and responding to them? Isn’t “finding work” part of working? The various connections I have made since moving to Toronto, include connections that continue and extend my search for work. “What else can I do? How can I improve what I am doing?” These questions linger on my mind, while I am “resting.” The work wants to continue and that might not be such a bad thing.