Work Quotes

In which The Inmate attempts to be Brief, Succinct, Direct, Compressed, Summarized, Curtailed, Condensed, Pithy, Lean, Bare, Curt, Straightforward, Concise, Pointed, Abbreviated, Neat, Abridged, Synoptic, Crisp, Precise, Exact, Gnomic, Laconic, Terse, Elliptical, Breviloquent, Pauciloquent, Abrupt, Sharp, Sparse, Emphatic, Sententious, Epigrammatic, Tight, Brusque, Compact, Compendious, Clear-Cut, Decisive, Fast,Short-Winded, and in all other ways not Redundant, Long-Winded, Verbose, Wordy, Prolix, Garrulous, Windy, Longiloquent, Diffuse, Discursive, Maundering, Rambling, Wandering, Digressive, Aimless, Roving, Ambiguous, Extended, Protracted, Prolonged, Lengthened, Drawn-Out, Long, Endless, Everlasting, Repetitious, Batological, Pleonastic, Tautological, Extensive, Broad, Expansive, Sustained, Dragged Out, Tedious, or Boring.

I have no wish to labour the obvious.

—Thomas More

17 October 2004

When common routines and public approval foster only Work, leisure becomes the exception, an escape to be contrived over and over. It is then an individual privilege, not a custom, and it breeds the specialized recreations and addictions of our time.

—Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence

5 January 2004

O what an humble garb true Joy puts on! Those who want Happiness must stoop to find it; it is a flower that grows in every vale. Vain foolish man, that roams on lofty rocks! where, ’cause his garments are swoln with wind, he fancies he is grown into a giant!

—William Blake

27 December 2003

“Hey, I don’t have all the answers. In life, to be honest, I have failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life, and I wish you my kind of success.”

—Dicky Fox in Jerry Maguire

20 October 2003

It[labor] is producing wealth but grinding man, and, while I think we all agree that production is one of the essentials of life and that while greater productions must go on in order to satisfy our growing needs, there are other considerations of a primary and more important character, and that is that the intelligence, that the physique, that the spirit, the mind, hopes, and aspirations of man shall be also cultivated and given an opportunity for higher achievements.

—Samuel Gompers, 1911
quoted in Visions of Technology by Richard Rhodes

3 April 2003

No, I don’t like work. I had rather laze about and think of all the fine things than can be done. I don’t like work–no man does–but I like what is in the work–the chance to find yourself. Your own reality–for yourself, not for others–what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.

—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Still, I was curious to see whether this man, who had come out equipped with moral ideas of some sort, would climb to the top after all and how he would set about his work when there.

—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

13 March 2003

At every factory I spent time studying all the various sections of the operation and picked out the best workers in each. I put them in charge, promising them a share of my percentage if they helped me to increase their yield. No one turned me down. Then together we we thought of new ways to improve efficiency.[italics mine]

—Chinese Entrepreneur quoted in Legacies: A Chinese Mosaic

My Chinese side wonders why Americans are so uneasy with time on their hands and must busy themselves with activities, the sweatier the better. Why do they keep changing their minds and ways, jobs and towns and spouses; send children packing just because they’re able to fend for themselves, and parents just because they’re unable to? Why do they toil all year to pay for the costly privilege of diving beneath shark-infested waters or plunging down icy cliffs trussed to greasy planks?

. . . Is it any wonder then that they are always asking themselves who they are? They just don’t stay put or reflect long enough to find out.

—-Bette Bao Lord, Legacies: A Chinese Mosaic

5 February 2003

Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them. Their fingers, from excessive toil, are too clumsy and tremble too much for that. . . . He has not time to be anything but a machine.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

5 June 2001

Again, the idea is to sacrifice hypotheses rather than human beings or valuable resources(including time). A society[or corporation] that goes about things in this way will be more successful in achieving the aims of its policy-makers[or managers] than one in which they forbid critical discussion of their policies, or forbid critical comment on the practical consequences of those policies. Suppression of criticism means that more mistakes than otherwise will go unperceived in the formulation of policy, and also that after mistaken policies have been implemented they will be persisted in for longer before being altered or abandoned.

Bryan Magee, Confessions of a Philosopher: A Journey Through Western Philosophy,
Random House, Inc., New York, 1997, pg. 189.

During my long summer vacations I worked at undemanding jobs . . . which enabled me to do a lot of reading and keep body and soul together without touching my education money, which was the way I looked on my capital.

Robertson Davies, Fifth Business
Penguin Books, New York, 1986, pp. 109-110.

23 May 2001

As usual, I wondered whether he was really turning over my mother’s question in his mind, or whether he was thinking about work. Maybe he did try to think about my mother’s question, but once his mind started going, he could only think about work. He was a professor of philosophy and thinking was his life–thinking and reading and writing and teaching.

Sometimes I had the feeling that all of us in his family were like pets to him. The dog you take for a walk, the cat you play with and that curls up in your lap, purring, to be stroked–you can be fond of them, you can even need them to a certain extent, and nonetheless the whole thing– buying pet food, cleaning up the cat box, and trips to the vet–is really too much. Your life is elsewhere. I wish that we, his family, had been his life.

Bernhard Schlink, The Reader
translated by Carol Brown Janeway, Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, 1997, pg. 30.

15 May 2001

For work uses up an extraordinary proportion of nervous force, withdrawing it from reflection, meditation, dreams, cares, love, and easy and regular gratification. Thus it happens that a society where work is continually being performed will enjoy greater security, and it is security which is now venerated as the supreme deity.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day
quoted in The Oxford Book of Work, Edited by Keith Thomas, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999, pg. 122.

4 March 2001

“WHY WON’T YOU?”[come work with me]

“Because my friend, Yeste, you are very famous and very rich, and so you should be, because you make wonderful weapons. But you must also make them for any fool who happens along. I am poor, and no one knows me in all the world except you and Inigo, but I do not have to suffer fools.”

“You are an artist,” Yeste said.

“No. Not yet. A craftsman only. But I dream to be an artist. I pray that someday, if I work with enough care, if I am very, very lucky, I will make a weapon that is a work of art. Call me an artist then, and I will answer.”

Goldman, William, The Princess Bride, A Del Rey Book, Ballantine Books, New York, 1992, pg. 100.

12 February 2001

“Mercy!” exclaimed Edna, who had been fuming. “Why are you taking the thing so seriously and making such a fuss over it?”

“I’m not making a fuss over it. But it’s just such seeming trifles that we’ve got to take seriously; such things count.”

Chopin, Kate, The Awakening and Selected Stories, Penguin Books, Published by the Penguin Group, Viking Penguin, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1986. pg. 101.

17 December 2000

It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience.

Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience,” from the web site “The Thoreau Reader: The works of Henry D. Thoreau, 1817-1862” quote is from this web page.

26 November 2000

“Right down here is where the real paint is made. Without what I do they couldn’t do nothin’. They’d be making bricks without straw . . .”

” . . . I was wondering what you did down here.”

“. . . Can’t a single doggone drop of paint move out of the factory lessin’ it comes through Lucius Brockway’s hands.”

“How long you been doing this?”

“Long enough to know what I’m doin’,” he said. “And I learned it without all that education that them what’s been sent down here is supposed to have. I learned it by doin’ it. Them personnel fellows don’t want to face the facts, but Liberty Paints wouldn’t be worth a plug nickel if they didn’t have me here to see that it got a good, strong base.”

Ellison, Ralph, Invisible Man, read by Joe Morton, Random House Audiobooks, unabridged, Random House Audio Publishing, Inc., 1999, Tape 5, Side A

5 November 2000

Statistics are the triumph of the quantitative method, and the quantitative method is the victory of sterility and death.

Hilaire Belloc, quoted in Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould, W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 1991, pg. 474.

22 October 2000

In America we have developed the Corporation Man. His life, his family, his future–as well as his loyalty–lie with his corporation. His training, his social life, the kind of car he drives, the clothes he and his wife wear, the neighborhood he lives in, and the kind of and cost of his house and furniture, are all dictated by his corporate status. His position in the pyramid of management is exactly defined by the size of his salary and bonuses. The pressures toward conformity are subtle but inexorable, for his position and his hoped for promotion to a higher status are keyed to performance of duties, activities, and even attitudes which make the corporation successful.

John Steinbeck, America and Americans, photographs edited by the staff of Studio Books, The Viking Press, Inc, New York, N.Y., 1966, pg. 86.

15 October 2000

A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never to allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquillity. I do not think that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule. If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind. If this rule were always observed; if no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquillity of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved, Caesar would have spared his country, America would have been discovered more gradually, and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed. . .

Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, Penguin Books, Viking Penguin, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1985, pg. 99.

7 October 2000

“And the second?”[thing we need, Montag asks]

“Leisure.”[Faber replies]

“Oh, but we’ve plenty of off-hours.”

“Off-hours, yes. But time to think? If you’re not driving a hundred miles an hour, at a clip where you can’t think of anything else but the danger, then you’re playing some game or sitting in some room where you can’t argue with the four-wall televisor. Why? The televisor is ‘real.’ It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, ‘What nonsense!'”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Del Rey, A Del Rey Book, Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 1991, pg. 84.

1 October 2000

Advertising, for example, is an example of a scientifically immoral description of the products. This immorality is so extensive that one gets so used to it in ordinary life you do not appreciate that it is a bad thing.

Richard P. Feynman, Co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965 from The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, ©1999 Carl and Michelle Feynman, ©2000 Books on Tape, Inc., Published by arrangement with Melanie Jackson Agency, L.L.C., Books on Tape, Inc., Library Edition, Newport Beach, CA. Tape 3, Side 2.

23 July 2000

“Here I am!” he repeated, “and my chance has gone from me. Three times in one year the door has been offered me–the door that goes into peace, into delight, into a beauty beyond dreaming, a kindness no man on earth can know. And I have rejected it, Redmond, and it has gone—“

“How do you know?”[he asked Lionel Wallace]

“I know. I know. I am left now to work it out, to stick to the tasks that held me so strongly when my moments came. You say, I have success–this vulgar, tawdry, irksome, envied thing. I have it.” He had a walnut in his hand. “If that was my success,” he said, and crushed it, and held it out for me to see.

H.G. Wells, “The Door in the Wall” from The Door in the Wall and Other Stories, with photographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn, afterword by Jeffrey A.Wolin, David R. Godine, Publisher, Boston, Mass., 1980, pg. 22.

16 July 2000

“I am at the moment unemployed and have been launched upon a quest for work. However, I might as well have had the Grail set as my goal. I have been rocketing about the business district for a week now. Apparently I lack some particular perversion which today’s employer is seeking.”

Ignatius Reilly in John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, foreword by Walker Percy, Wings Books a division of Random House Value Publishing, Inc., New York, 1996, pg. 182.

9 July 2000

You could sit or stand, and Melony tried both positions, alternating them through the day. The belt was too high to make sitting comfortable and too low to make standing any better. Your back hurt in one place when you stood and in another place when you sat. Not only did Melony not know who did what, where, to the other half of the sprocket; she also didn’t know what the sprocket was for. What’s more, she didn’t care.

John Irving, The Cider House Rules, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, Copyright ©1985 by Garp Enterprises, Ltd., pp. 332-333.

1 July 2000

All in all, he had always been a fulfilled and contented man. A specimen so rare aroused yearning in other men, for how few men like their work, their lives–how very few men like themselves.

And so Doc threw himself into his work, hoping, the way a man will, to smother the unease with weariness.

John Steinbeck, Sweet Thursday, Penguin Books USA Inc., New York, 1996, pp. 18-21

17 June 2000

You’re really set on climbing the ladder? And suppose you wind up hanged?

Henri Michaux, Tent Posts, translated from the French by Lynn Hoggard, Green Integer Books, København, 1997, pg. 111.

10 June 2000

Unlike the culture of the European Middle Ages, which honored the vocations of the learned teacher, the country parson, and the plowman as well as that of the knight, or the culture of Japan in the Edo period which ranked the farmer and the craftsman above the merchant, our own culture places an absolute premium upon various kinds of stardom. This degrades and impoverishes ordinary life, ordinary work, and ordinary experience. It depreciates and underpays the work of the primary producers of goods, and of the performers of all kinds of essential but unglamorous jobs and duties. The inevitable practical results are that most work is now poorly done; great cultural and natural resources are neglected, wasted or abused; the land and its creatures are destroyed; and the citizenry is poorly taught, poorly governed, and poorly served.

Wendell Berry, Life is a Miracle; An Essay Against Modern Superstition, Counterpoint, Washington D.C., a member of the Perseus Books Group, 2000, pg. 57.

21 May 2000

We need hardly say that from the traditional point of view there could hardly be found a stronger condemnation of the present social order than in the fact that the man at work is no longer doing what he likes best, but rather what he must, and in the general belief that a man can only be really happy when he ‘gets away’ and is at play. . . . It is this way of life that our civilization denies to the vast majority of men, and in this respect that it is notably inferior to even the most primitive or savage societies with which it can be contrasted.

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Christian and Oriental Philosophy of Art, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1956, pg. 26.

19 March 2000

Our hankering for a state of leisure or leisure state is the proof of the fact that most of us are working at a task to which we could never have been called by anyone but a salesman, certainly not by God or by our own natures. Traditional craftsmen whom I have known in the East cannot be dragged away from their work, and will work overtime to their own pecuniary loss.

We have gone so far as to divorce work from culture, and to think of culture as something to be acquired in hours of leisure; but there can be only a hothouse and unreal culture where work itself is not its means; if culture does not show itself in all we make we are not cultured.

Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Christian and Oriental Philosophy of Art, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1956, pg. 15.

9 April 2000

Life, as quickly as you use it, melts away, disappears, long only to someone who knows how to drift, loaf. On the eve of his death, the man of action and work realizes–too late–life’s natural span, the one he too might have known had he only understood, through constant intervention, how not to act.

Henri Michaux, Tent Posts, translated from the French by Lynn Hoggard, Green Integer Books, København, 1997, pg. 29.

23 April 2000

Jackson Jackson was a good kid
he had four years of college and his bachelor’s degree,
started work when he was twenty-one
got fed up and quit when he was forty-three.
He said, ‘My whole life I’ve done what I’m supposed to do
now I’d like to maybe do something for myself.
Just as soon as I figure out what that is
you bet your life I’m gonna get . . .'[as much as I listen to this section of the song I cannot figure out the last few words]

I want to live the real life
I want to live my life close to the bone
Just because I’m middle-aged
That don’t mean I want sit around this house and watch t.v.
I want the real life.
I want to live the real life.

John Cougar Mellencamp, “Real Life,” from the album, The Lonesome Jubilee, manufactured and marketed by PolyGram Records, ©1987 John Mellencamp

7 May 2000

“There’s a lot of anger in the my generation. You can hear it in the music. Kids are angry for a lot of reasons, but mostly because parents aren’t around.”

Robertino Rodrigues, 17, Newsweek, May 8, 2000, page 55.

14 May 2000

In the past we have been too quick to judge a culture by its technological prowess, its attainments in the material realm. If you could dazzle a culture with the might of your ‘fire sticks’ or rifles then they obviously had little to teach you. In that sense Tibet before the invasion of the Chinese Communists . . . has nothing to teach us, for they only employed the wheel in prayer wheels, not for transportation or machinery. However, more recetnly we have come to appreciate the richness and depth of their ‘inner technology.’

Victor Mansfield, Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making, Open Court Publishing Company, a division of Carus Publishing Company, Peru, Ill., 1995, pg. 227.

11 March 2000

“There, there, I shall find some good employment, although it will not necessarily be what you would call a good job. I may have some valuable insights which may benefit my employer. Perhaps the experience can give my writing a new dimension. Being actively engaged in the system which I criticize will be an interesting irony in itself.”

Ignatius J. Reilly in John Kennedy Toole’s  A Confederacy of Dunces, foreword by Walker Percy, Wings Books a division of Random House Value Publishing, Inc., New York, 1996, pg. 62.

5 March 2000

There are wise people who talk ever so knowingly and complacently about “the working classes,” and satisfy themselves that a day’s hard intellectual work is very much harder than a day’s hard manual toil, and is righteously entitled to much bigger pay. Why, they really think that, you know, because they know all about the one, but haven’t tried the other. But I know all about both; and so far as I am concerned, there isn’t money enough in the universe to hire me to swing a pick-axe thirty days, but I will do the hardest kind of intellectual work for just as near nothing as you can cipher it down–and I will be satisfied, too.

Intellectual “work” is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation and is its own highest reward.

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court from The Unabridged Mark Twain, Volume 1, Edited by Lawrence Teacher, Running Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1976, pg. 1102.

27 February 2000

Awakening from this dream, he was overwhelmed by a feeling of great sadness. It seemed to him that he had spent his life in a worthless and senseless manner; he retained nothing vital, nothing in any way precious or worthwhile. He stood alone, like a shipwrecked man on the shore.

Hesse, Hermann, Siddhartha, translated by Hilda Rosner, New Directions Books, New Directions Publishing Corporation, New York, N.Y., 1957, pg. 66.

13 February 2000

Nike pays Michael Jordan $20 million a year in endorsement fees. This fee exceeded the entire annual payroll of the Indonesian factories that make the shoes.

Moore, Michael, Downsize This!: Random Threats from an Unarmed American, HarperPerennial, a Division of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1997, pg. 129.

5 February 2000

Beggars do not work, it is said; but, then, what is work? A navvy works by swinging a pick. An accountant works by adding up figures. A beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose veins, chronic bronchitis, etc. It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course–but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless.

George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London from Down and Out in Paris and London; 1984; Shooting an Elephant; Quality Paperback Book Club by arrangement with Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, Book-of-the-Month Club, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1991, pg. 173.

30 January 2000

The educated man pictures a horde of submen, wanting only a day’s liberty to loot his house, burn his books, and set him to work minding a machine or sweeping out a lavatory. “Anything,” he thinks, “any injustice, sooner than let that mob loose.” He does not see that since there is no difference between the mass of rich and poor, there is no question of setting the mob loose. The mob is in fact loose now, and–in the shape of rich men–is using its power to set up enormous treadmills of boredom …

George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London from Down and Out in Paris and London; 1984; Shooting an Elephant; Quality Paperback Book Club by arrangement with Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, Book-of-the-Month Club, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1991, pp. 120-121.

16 January 2000

Incidentally, pseudo-festivals exist, as well as pseudo-work. Not all activity, not every kind of expenditure of effort and earning of money, deserves the name of work. That should be applied only to the active-and usually also laborious-procurement of the things that are truly useful for living. And it is a good guess that only meaningful work can provide the soil in which festivity flourishes. Perhaps both work and celebration spring from the same root, so that when one dries up, the other withers.

Josef Pieper, In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity, translated by Richard and Clara Winston, St. Augustine’s Press, South Bend, Indiana, 1999, pg. 4.

9 January 2000

When it became time for me to say good-night[Russell was a very young boy when this happened], he[Russell’s Uncle] gravely informed me that the human capacity for enjoyment decreases with the years and that I should never again enjoy a summer’s day as much as the one that was now ending. I burst into floods of tears and continued to weep long after I was in bed. Subsequent experience has shown me that his remark was as untrue as it was cruel.

Bertrand Russell, The Autobiograpy of Bertrand Russell, Bantam Books, Inc., New York, N.Y., pg. 17.

19 December 1999

During these leisure times, those old notions about freedom would steal over me again. When in Mr. Gardner’s employment, I was kept in such a perpetual whirl of excitement, I could think of nothing, scarcely, but my life; and in thinking of my life, I almost forgot my liberty. . . . I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.

Frederick Douglass,  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave, Signet Printing, April 1968, pg. 103.

12 December 1999

Happy they, who thus have some little faithful attendant, who never forsakes them, but prepares to wrangle and to praise against every opposer; at once ready to increase their pride while living, and their character when dead. For you and I, my friend, who have no humble admirer thus to attend us, we, who neither are, nor ever will be great men, and who do not much care whether we are great men or no, at least let us strive to be honest men, and to have common sense.

Oliver Goldsmith, “A Little Great Man,” in The Oxford Book of Essays, edited by John Gross, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1991, pp. 93-94.

21 November 1999

‘Tis a capital misery for a man to be at once both old and ignorant. . . . while his body sits still he knows not how to find his mind action . . . if my day prove a summer one, it [knowledge] shall not be amiss to have provided something that in the evening of my age may make my mind my companion. Notable was the answer that Antisthenes gave when he was asked what fruit he had reaped of all his studies. “By them,” saith he, “I have learned both to live and to talk with myself.”

Owen Felltham, “The Misery of Being Old and Ignorant” from Great English and American Essays edited by Douglass S. Mead, Rinehart and Company, Incorporated, New York, Toronto, 1959, pp. 1-2.

14 November 1999

For there is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in Work. Were he never so benighted, forgetful of his high calling, there is always hope in a man that actually and earnestly works: in Idleness alone is there perpetual despair.

Think it not thy business, this knowing thyself; thou art an unknowable individual: know what thou canst work at; and work at it, like a Hercules! That will be thy better plan.

Labor is Life . . .

Thomas Carlyle, “Labor” from Great English and American Essays edited by Douglass S. Mead, Rinehart and Company, Incorporated, New York, Toronto, 1959, pp. 61, 63.

7 November 1999

Organization is indispensable; for liberty arises and has meaning only within a self-regulating community of freely co-operating individuals. But, though indispensable, organization can also be fatal. Too much organization transforms men and women into automata, suffocates the creative spirit and abolishes the very possibility of freedom. As usual, the only safe course is the middle, between the extremes of laissez-faire at one end of the scale and of total control at the other.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited, Perennial Library, Harper and Row, Publishers, New York, Hagerstown, San Francisco, London, 1965, pg. 23.

31 October 1999

MY CAMPAIGN PLATFORM for non-Abbot and permanent keeper of the present doghouse:

. . . I would be completely incapable of assuming the duties of a superior, since I am in no sense an administrator still less a business man. Nor am I equipped to spend the rest of my life arguing about complete trivialities with one hundred and twenty five slightly confused and anxiety ridden monks. The responsibility of presiding over anything larger than a small chicken coop is beyond my mental, moral and physical capabilities . . . You would probably be voting for me on the grounds that I would grant you plenty of beer. Well I would, but it takes more than that to make a good Abbot.

Thomas Merton wrote the preceding because he feared he was being considered for the position of Abbot.
Thomas Merton in The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton by Michael Mott Houghton MIfflin Company, Boston, 1984, pp. 503-504.

24 October 1999

We have been handed an accepted work world in which the things that really matter in human life have been pushed to the margins of our culture. Much of our present struggles with our organizations have to do with remembering what is essential and placing it back in the center of our lives.

David Whyte, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, A Currency Paperback published by Doubleday, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1996, pg. 294.

17 October 1999

Southern Pacific

Huntington sleeps in a house six feet long.
Huntington dreams of railroads he built and owned.
Huntington dreams of ten thousand men saying: Yes, sir.

Blithery sleeps in a house six feet long.
Blithery dreams of rails and ties he laid.
Blithery dreams of saying to Huntington: Yes, sir.

Blithery, sleep in houses six feet long.

Carl Sandburg, Harvest Poems: 1910-1960, with an introduction by Mark Van Doren, A Harvest/HBJ Book, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, San Diego, New York, London, 1960, pg. 49.

10 October 1999

Science and technology transform the world at many levels, but they often do so more negatively than positively. Many share my perception of crisis in which our materialistic world view is contributing to a physical, psychological, and spiritual catastrophe. Our very survival as a species demands a new view of humanity, nature, and their interplay.

Victor Mansfield, Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making, Open Court Publishing Company, a division of Carus Publishing Company, Peru, Ill., 1995, pg. 11.

3 October 1999

It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to his beloved even in his sleep.

Psalm 127:2

I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

26 September 1999

Investing in Key Workers is Smart Business.

Headline from The San Diego Union-Tribune, Section C, September 20, 1999.
[Seven words and three business clichés in one sentence. Unfortunately these clichés are used so often that business executives(and business writers) can say them without ever concerning themselves about real meaning. It sounds good, but “smart business” is often an oxymoron which leaves little hope for significant “investment” in all those “key workers.”]

19 September 1999

“I must be getting old or something–I’m beginning realize my limitations. I’m not a very good administrator–not compared to guys like Hopkins and Ogden. I never will be, and the main reason is, I don’t want to be. This sounds like a silly way to put it, but I don’t think you can get to be a top administrator without working every week end for half your life, and I’d just as soon spend my week ends with you and the kids.”

Wilson, Sloan, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Simon and Schuster, New York, N.Y., 1955, pg. 250.

12 September 1999

. . . although absolute power no doubt sometimes proved a corrupting influence [to the 12 Caesars of the Roman Empire beginning with Julius and ending with Domitian], Lord Acton might usefully, though less elegantly, have rewritten his assertion in the following terms: overwork combined with fear tends to corrupt and continual overwork and fear corrupt absolutely . . .

Grant, Michael, The Twelve Caesars, unabridged narration on cassette by Nelson Runger, Recorded Books, Inc., Prince Frederick, MD, tape 8, side 2.

5 September 1999

In their quest to “live life to the fullest” many people miss the very things that make life full.”

The Inmate

29 August 1999

People streamed down the escalators to the lower levels; everyone was in a hurry, only I had time.

Lem, Stanislaw, Return from the Stars, translated by Barbara Marszal and Frank Simpson, A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, San Diego, New York, London, 1989, pg. 62.

22 August 1999

To keep Americans away from things one would have to eliminate advertising and offer them another authority to guide their free time. Advertising interests are formidable in themselves. And, of course, in back of them stands business.

De Grazia, Sebastian, Of Time, Work and Leisure, Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1994, pg. 353.

15 August 1999

To find Orbit around a corporate Hairball is to find a place of balance where you benefit from the physical, intellectual and philosophical resources of the organization without becoming entombed in the bureaucracy of the institution.

MacKenzie, Gordon, Orbiting The Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, Penguin Putnam Inc., New York, N.Y., 1998, pg. 33.

1 August 1999

Courage and endurance are required for business and philosophy for leisure, temperance and justice for both, and more especially in times of peace and leisure, for war compels men to be just and temperate, whereas the enjoyment of good fortune and the leisure which comes with peace tend to make them insolent.

Aristotle, The Works of Aristotle: Volume II, in Great Books of the Western World, Mortimer J. Adler, William Gorman, et. al., Editors, William Benton, Publisher, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago, 1988, Vol. 9. pg. 539.

18 July 1999

Everything in modern city life is calculated to keep man from entering into himself and thinking about spiritual things. Even with the best of intentions a spiritual man finds himself exhausted and deadened and debased by the constant noise of machines and loudspeakers, the dead air and the glaring lights of offices and shops, the everlasting suggestions of advertising and propaganda.

Merton, Thomas, No Man Is An Island, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, San Diego, New York, London, 1983, pp. 108-109.

11 July 1999

When a workman is unceasingly and exclusively engaged in the fabrication of one thing, he ultimately does his work with singular dexterity; but, at the same time, he loses the general faculty of applying his mind to the direction of the work. He every day becomes more adroit and less industrious; so that it may be said of him, that, in proportion as the workman improves, the man is degraded. . . .When a workman has spent a considerable portion of this existence in this manner, his thoughts are forever set upon the object of his daily toil; his body has contracted certain fixed habits, which it can never shake off: in a word, he no longer belongs to himself, but to the calling which he has chosen. It is in vain that laws and manners have been at pains to level all the barriers round such a man, and to open to him on every side a thousand different paths to fortune; a theory of manufactures more powerful than manners and laws binds him to a craft, and frequently to a spot which he cannot leave: it assigns to him a certain place in society, beyond which he cannot go: in the midst of universal movement, it has rendered him stationary.

In proportion as the principle of the division of labor is more extensively applied, the workman becomes more weak, more narrow-minded, and more dependent.

Alexis de Touqueville, Democracy in America, translated by Henry Reeve, revised by Francis Bowen, Edited and abridged by Richard D. Heffner, A Mentor Book, New American Library, 1984, pp. 217-218.

4 July 1999

A lot of people, especially folks that aren’t very secure, have a tendency to restrict the flow of knowledge, because it is a power source. And if you keep people uninformed, you keep them vulnerable and insecure and therefore not very aggressive, and with an unwillingness to question what’s going on.

Earl Wantland former President of Tektronix, quoted in A Great Place to Work by Robert Levering, Random House, New York, 1988, pg. 74

27 June 1999

“I don’t take the job home with me. When I worked in the office, my wife would say, ‘What was the matter with you last night? You laid there and your fingers were drumming the mattress.’ That’s when I worked in the office. The bookkeeping and everything else, it was starting to play on my nerves. Yeah, I prefer laboring to bookkeeping.”

Roy Schmidt, a garbage man quoted in Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do,by Studs Terkel, Ballantine Books, New York, N.Y., 1990, pg. 150.

20 June 1999

What strikes me again and again is the number of excellent people, people of gentle character and inner gracefulness, one meets on the waterfront. I spent some time on the last job with Ernie and Mac, two elderly fellows I have known slightly. I found myself thinking what fine persons the two are–generous, competent, and intelligent. I have watched them tackle jobs not only intelligently but with striking originality. And all the time they work as if at play.

Eric Hoffer, Working and Thinking on the Waterfront

12 June 1999

A corporation which decides to rebuild its image has decided less on a change of heart than on a change of face.

Daniel J. Boorstein, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America

6 June 1999

Indeed, it can scarcely be said that corporations were managed by men. They were operated almost purely by policy, which soon jelled into tradition, and which had little, if any, consideration for the human elements in business.

Louis Adamic, quoted in American Labor: A Pictorial Social History, by M. B. Schnapper

31 May 1999

Get rich! Fine! And afterwards, when we are rich?

Miguel de Unamuno, “Popular Materialism” in Perplexities and Paradoxes

23 May 1999

They never force people to work unnecessarily, for the main purpose of their whole economy is to give each person as much time free from physical drudgery as the needs of the community will allow, so that he can cultivate his mind- which they regard as the secret of a happy life.

Thomas More, Utopia

16 May 1999

It is scarcely necessary to remark that a stationary condition of capital and population implies no stationary state of human improvement.

John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy
[Try explaining that to a CEO . . . or a politician.]

9 May 1999

The speed of modern life is out of synchronization with the human body. If we could slow our lives down a little, think of quality before quantity, there would be more time to savor the pleasant things before we are forced to rush on to something else.

John Brown, a chairmaker, “Good Work,” Fine Woodworking,Nov/Dec 1997

2 May 1999

Clearly by now it was one of those days when the world outside wasn’t going to let me do what I really wanted to do–catch a big Brown Trout and talk to my brother in some helpful way.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

25 April 1999

The Officers labeled their latrine, “For the Officers.” The enlisted countered by labeling theirs, “For the other assholes.”

German Military folklore, quoted in Life is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder

18 April 1999

We despise any one who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking ambition.

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

11 April 1999

A typical corporate video is like a typical Hollywood sex scene: everybody looks good, everybody’s making noise, but nobody’s saying anything.

The Inmate

4 April 1999

The upshot was–as the professor put it– that what was to have been controlled, controlled us. No one, however, would admit this, and of course the next, logical step was the declaration that things were exactly the way they ought to be.

Stanislaw Lem, The Star Diaries

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