MONDAY, 29 AUGUST 2005
What do you do if the spectrum of self models with which you are faced is insufficient – if you cannot find a suitable match for you proprium*?
[Proprium: “The centerpiece of personality serving to help give the individual a sense of self.” The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications, by Bernardo J. Carducci]
Fruits of my labour. Fruit of my existence.
I feel good about one thing and there is one thing that bothers me.
I feel good about an Afrikaans poem of mine [translated title: “Day full of civilization”] that I rewrote, or radically revised. The thing that bothers me: So what? It’s not like anyone is going to read it any time soon! A collection of poetry? Two volumes of poetry? How many people are actually ever going to read any of it?
Another idea is already jumping up and down trying to get attention (“Pick me! Pick me!” it would have yelled if it were a child): money, and more specifically the pursuit of financial wealth. What would I say to someone today, Monday 29 August 2005 if that person were to throw a card on the table that says: one hour spent on making money is better than ten hours spent on creative projects for the sake of being creative, with financial gain a secondary motivation and slim possibility. Also: any personal project, any study project, any skills that are learned only have value if you end up with more money in your pocket as a result. Also: you live in Cloud Cuckoo Land if you do not recognize these facts of life, and if you spend precious time – time you could have spent earning money – on writing poetry … I mean, come on! Poetry?! Are you serious?! And the trump card: money is an immediate fruit of your labour, an immediate result of time spent that can be used to buy food and fruit juice and coffee and tea and clothing, and to pay rent, and to travel, and to buy other things that will increase the quality of your life.
“You understand this, don’t you?” the person will say. “Almost immediate fruits of your labour! But you spend your time on, what? Literary projects with profit as a slim possibility in the distant future? English textbooks, okay. But poetry?”
What I would say to this challenge to a life I have chosen for myself, to beliefs that I consider as crucial to my existence?
TUESDAY, 30 AUGUST 2005
When I teach, I know what the fruits of my labour are – it is expressed in exact monetary value, and I have a good idea what the concrete, tangible value of that money is.
The tangible, usable, edible, visible fruit of conventional labour, in my case English classes, should be taken into account when I mention “money”.
I am currently struggling with the fruits of my labour. For example, I spent six weeks reviewing material from FINAL CHAPTER. Are the fruits of this labour visible? On my computer screen, yes. Is it tangible? No. Can I share it with someone? Not at the moment. Can I show it to anyone? Sort of – on my computer screen.
On the other hand I teach an English class for an hour. I know what the fruits of that labour will be: NT$700. I know when I will pick this fruit: next Wednesday. Will I be able to see the fruits of that particular effort? Yes, in a cinema for example. Will I be able to eat the fruit of that labour? Yes, as breakfast cereal and yogurt, and lunch and dinner. Are the fruits of my teaching job tangible and concrete, for me? Yes. Are the fruits of my creative work concrete and tangible? They will be after a few more weeks or months of additional work …
I could argue that I want to teach more classes at the moment because I need more money. But I also know that I am motivated by the desire to see the fruits of my labour sooner rather than later, and to taste it, and to feel it on my skin, and to experience it.
Am I saying that labour should necessarily provide cash or other forms of credit that can be exchanged for things one can feel, taste, drink, see and possible smell and hear?
No. Three examples: to raise children; to actively do charity work; and to learn other languages.
Most of my effort – by far the most! – over the past five years has been ploughed into writing projects. It will certainly be unfair to say that no project has ever been completed (unfinished projects are not the same as projects that are endlessly revised). I would however ask: Where is the fruit? Show me the fruit of five years of effort!
I am a little hard on myself … I know the fruit will be sweet … but I need to express my frustration.
Last night I shared the thought with [N.] that money – hard cash – is a fruit of your labour that you can almost immediately enjoy, and that I put most of my effort into work that may only bear fruit in x number of months (or even years!). She replied that my fruits will eventually be good, even if it takes a little long to realize. And then the real comfort: “If you didn’t write, I would’ve considered you just an ordinary guy … and would probably not even have gone out with you. Your writing,” she concluded, “makes you special.”