"An impoverished knight has no way to show he is knight except through his virtue, by being affable, well-mannered, courteous, civil, and diligent, not proud, arrogant, and prone to gossip, and above all, by being charitable, for with two maravedís given joyfully to a poor man, he will show that he is as generous as the man who gives alms to the loud ringing of bells; no one who sees a knight adorned with these virtues fail to judge and consider him to be of good breeding, even if he does not know him, and his not being would be remarkable; praise was always the reward of virtue, and virtuous men cannot avoid being praised".
- Don Quixote
I do not have the nerve to shoplift even a grape, but aside from crime, I have tried each of these strategies myself. Since the age of 12 I have worked forty-five different jobs. I counted for you. No, I am not 300 years old, Bank-robbin’; I worked most of these two or three at a time, like a real patriot, since none of them paid enough to live on. What I will have to say to you, by the end of this, is that anyone who has found a way to transform anger into purpose and even some measure of peace about work has learned to reckon with two contradictory truths:
- Most work seems designed to make you feel absolutely alone, and
- Almost everyone, if they are honest with themselves, feels exactly like you about much of the work they do.
Everything is upside down. Your life is sold to serve an economy that does not serve your life.
You have been trained from childhood to think that labor, in and of itself, is both a right and one of the most important goals of your life; you have been told that your “career” is the same thing as “who you are in the world.” Yet like most employed people in the United States, you work jobs that you consider to be banal, brutal, or both.
For this labor you are supposed to be grateful, since work is increasingly hard to get: if you lose your shitty job, you’ve got only a one-in-five chance of finding a new one, and if you’ve been unemployed for six months or longer your chances are one in ten.
This is a big question, but one answer covers it all: we ask questions. There are quite a few human languages – Latin and Irish among them – that don’t have words for “yes” or “no” – but every language on earth has a word for “why”.