This Monday, we celebrate work by taking off from it—many of us, that is. That’s as it should be, for, as the scribe who concocted the fable of man’s fall rightly perceived, work is a punishment and a curse.
The nobility of work is extolled, for the most part, by those unequipped for leisure. We plunge into physical labor, often, to take our mind off our troubles—to avoid the heavier task of thinking.
In fact, thinking is an enterprise we willingly abandon early on—once we establish a few core “truths” to live by. From that point on it’s all reinforcement. We have our view of the world, and we’re sticking to it. So we choose what we watch, what we read, what we hear, accordingly—as a buttress for our certainty. When was the last time you knew of someone (not a politician) changing his mind—that is, his temperament?
A man who’s a liberal at twenty-one may be a conservative at age forty, but that doesn’t mean that he’s changed his mind, only that he’s adapted his behavior to fit his circumstances. Chances are he’s still as narrowly self-interested as he was.
By way of an example: When I was twenty-two and fresh out of college, with a head full and a bellyful of the classics of a liberal-arts curriculum, and further inflamed by delving on the side into the works of the great freethinkers and atheists, I saw myself as wonderfully enlightened, and the rest of the world deluded. To the world, moreover, it was my obligation to point out the error of its ways. The people who had to hear me may or may not have been amused, but in any event my fulminations made me an object of their interest, which was what I desired.
I thought that I’d given a great deal of thought to the subject, but as it turned out I’d only thought enough to become certain.
These days, it’s a matter of indifference to me what people believe, as long as they leave me alone. I enjoy writing on the subject of belief, however, even if it attracts attention. It’s a lot less work than thinking.