The programming of the materialistic world


I always find it fascinating: the embarrassment of not being busy with something that is supposed to make money, when it is expected of you, or when you yourself expected to engage in such an activity.

I had a busy morning. I took laundry to the laundromat, did some print work at the 7-Eleven, continued my preparation for a private class tonight, and by noon started getting ready for a meeting at a school. I knew that when I got back from the meeting, I had to finish my preparations for tonight’s class, get something for dinner, and then after dinner leave for my last commercial activity of the day.

Just before the meeting, I saw that I had missed a call. A two-minute conversation enlightened me to the fact that the private student I was supposed to teach tonight is still in Taipei, and that the class is thus cancelled.

By three-thirty, N. and I were back from our meeting (we teach at the same school). We stopped at the 7-Eleven at our apartment building so that she could buy something to eat, before heading off to another school to teach there for a few hours. I wished her a pleasant remainder of the afternoon, reminded her to drive safely and to eat something proper for dinner, then turned towards our apartment building. It was a rainy, chilly Friday afternoon. My “work” for the day was done. And I felt guilty. And incredibly ashamed.

Could it be that I have not yet advanced further than the robot-like programming of the materialistic world? After all these years of weighing up values, is it still appropriate to feel ashamed just because I am staring a final few hours of a “work week” in the face in which I won’t fulfil any visibly commercial role? Where – can you imagine? – I might just take it easy?

Why do some people manage not to think twice about it? They get a Friday afternoon off, give an unashamed whoop of relief, and rush home. Why is it that I feel ashamed about something like this, even though I know I am most likely still going to work on something else?

The answer is boring. The answer has shown its face too many times.

Most of the work I keep myself busy with has little or no commercial value, or has yet to bear fruit of any material significance. In a materialistic world where your personal value is determined by how much commercial value you create, or how much commercial value you carry in your handbag or wallet, even the lone-working entrepreneur and writer of non-commercial material occasionally then buckles before the temptation to show the world that he, too, is “busy”. “Look everyone! I’m not just sitting at my computer all day writing, and working on internet projects and things like that! I also go out sometimes and do things primarily for the money, like other people!”

And what happens when you miss an opportunity to do something primarily for monetary gain when it was expected of you, and when you anticipated having this opportunity? The old programming kicks in – as if you have never even tried to think differently about it.