A week ago Mehrin and I got back from an immersion trip to Lake Mungo, which was offered through the Christian Brothers, an order of the Catholic Church. Muthi Muthi woman Vicki Clark (who was part of the working group that set up our household in 2001) invites groups to come on this trip throughout the year, and you can find information about it here.
One of the things I really appreciated about the trip was the opportunity to pay more attention to sunrise and sunset as bookends to the day. On one of our days at Lake Mungo, Vicki took us out to look out over the lake as the sun gradually rose and also as it set one day. But we also saw a lot of the sunrise and sunset on other days too, because in the desert there’s not a lot to block out the view.
It’s often easy not to notice the sunrise and sunset back in the city, but I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the sunrise and sunset since we got home. I’ve been going up the street to watch it go down, and making more of a habit of stopping work after sunset. (This is important because a lot of the time I can end up working from early in the morning until 9pm or later.) I’ve gotten up just before sunrise a couple of times, but haven’t remembered to go and watch it coming up.
I should know this! I’ve spent enough time recovering from overwork, including a month in hospital a few years ago. Old habits die hard. I’ve had a headache for over a month, which is because a month ago I had one week that was way too busy. Well, actually, the headache it is getting better. It isn’t all day now, but for the first four weeks it was constant. I haven’t been posting here as regularly as I’d like but I’m expecting that’s probably how it’ll need to be at least this month!
In March 2015 I started working as a freelancer. Today I sent off my 50th invoice. I felt like it was important to mark the occassion. At the beginning of 2015 when I started winding back my regular work I felt pretty nervous. Resigning entirely at the end of that year was fairly risky. While it is often much less certain, I really like knowing that I’m doing the work that I should be and knowing that I can find my own work. Thankyou to everyone I’ve been able to work with during that time!
Emails take me too long to read. Often emails take me even longer to write.
I end up putting off reading emails, but I end up putting off responding to emails even more because I feel like there’s a lot I need to say.
I’ve been finding four sentence emails (which Andreana introduced me to) really helpul. The idea is that you commit to a four sentence limit on emails you send, as a response to the problem of ‘continuous inbox overflow’. While I can’t control the length of the emails I receive from others, I have found that sticking to the four sentence limits means my emails are a lot quicker and easier to write. It should also mean that it’s easier for folks to read and get back to me quickly.
When Andreana brought this idea up with a group we were involved in, someone asked what you do if you need to talk about something that will take more than four sentences. I think Andreana said that if you have something bigger to talk about it, you probably need to talk about it face to face. I think that’s a good idea. I can think of a lot of blow-ups that have happened because someone communicated something big over email, which could have been better communicated face-to-face.
The last two weeks I’ve written a bit about growing a sense of community at work. On Thursday I mentioned that working locally, from home, alongside neighbours and family, is the way that people worked before industrialisation. My friend Dylan said he was interested in reflecting more on what work and family were like before industrialisation. I thought I’d write a brief summary of my limited understanding of this topic:
Before industrialisation, most work was farming for food production. In pre-industrial Britain, nobles had responsibility for areas of land. They would get local people to live on and work the land. No-one had a lot of incentive to improve the land. The nobility couldn’t sell up and workers couldn’t go looking for better places to work. Most production was for consumption within the extended household of the manor where it was made. It was often too risky to try and take goods to cities to trade, because of the cost of transportation, tolls that needed to be paid and prevalence of banditry. Local exchange was controlled by relationships of obligation.
One of the factors that began a move away from this system was a movement toward private ownership of land. In England, the nobility began to push for the ability to enclose the land they were responsible for – to claim ownership, and the right to sell it. Previously a lot of the land had been held in common, so all the local people could use it. Private ownership gave the nobility the incentive to develop the land and sell up. This meant that many tenant farmers were no longer needed and became displaced. I think this meant more than just geographical movement – it meant a severing of the relationships of obligatory exchange that bonded feudal communities together. Many displaced workers ended up in big cities, providing the labor that allowed industrial work to begin.
Hopefully think it’s obvious that I’m not arguing for a return to pre-industrial economics, but I wonder if there is anything we can learn from pre-industrial society?
Steph suggested we should make sure we notice people and mention things we appreciate about them. In workplaces it can be easy for people to go unnoticed. If we consistently notice people, we’ll create community over time.
Dylan was saying he’s just started a new job, and he’s just been looking out for opportunities for informal, spontaneous coversation.
Steve suggested letting community just happen organically. He said he’d seen bosses try to enforce community from above, and it never works. He was telling us about an attempt one boss made to get everyone to cheer at the end of meetings, which sounded kind of awkward…
Lucas kept it simple: ‘Humans being nice to other humans!’
Jacqui’s suggestion was simple as well, but I think there’s also a lot of depth to it. She suggested sharing food, which is actually something I was talking with some students about yesterday. I think sharing food is really good for developing a sense of community and mutuality, because it’s a reminder of our shared dependence on food and on the land that provides it.
Shae was saying he has no idea how to develop community at work because he’s lucky to work with someone who is already one of his best friends. They’re both already part of the same community in a lot of ways. What he was describing reminded me of the fact that before industrialisation, that’s more what work was like. People would work locally, often out of their homes alongside family. Because of industrialisation many of us now travel out of neighbourhoods to work with people that we don’t see except at work. I think this means we have to be more intentional about growing community. If we have the opportunity to work in our local communities, it can male it more straightforward.
If you have any more suggestions, please feel free to keep adding them!
Last Monday was Labour Day and we were having a discussion in our extended household about work and rest.
One of the questions that came up in our discussion was, ‘What is the work of our society? Is there something we’re working towards as a society?’
My first reflection was that at a national level we don’t seem to have anyone leading us anywhere at the moment and that there doesn’t seem to be much of an idea about anything we’re working towards.
I think the clearest work that I can see we have to do is the work of reconciliation, which we’ve often preferred to refer to as healing. we’ve been particulalry focussed on the healing between First Peoples and Settler peoples, but there is a lot of grief between different groups in this country. Uncle Dennis reminded us that in this work Settler Peoples have got to be aware of some of the cultural baggage that can be attached to work. Our cultural values might be telling us that it’s important to get the work of healing done quickly and efficiently, but in order to even start to understand the damage that has been done we might need to slow down and spend time listening and sitting together and sharing cups of tea. It might not seem very productive, it might seem slow, but I guess it’s part of the work of re-creation.
Today is Labour Day, when we celebrate the achievements for workers rights. In March 1856 stonemasons downed tools and walked off the job in Melbourne. They refused to return until their bosses had agreed to better working conditions, including an eight hour standard work day (some workers were having to work up to 14 hours per day), sick pay and holiday pay.
This evening our household is taking time to reflect on work and rest.
I’ve been reminded that working together creates rapport. It bonds us as a community. I don’t think you can make community out of a bunch of people wanting to be community – you need to have some common work. In my old workplace we’d try to regularly do common work together after meetings. Often it would involve fixing things, painting walls or cleaning areas that were hard to get to. It may not have always been super effective or efficient, but it bonded us as a community when we practised it.
On Friday our household did similar at our. Our property manager ken came over and we spent the day repainting window frames. Other times in the last year we’ve done more general working bees. When we’ve cast the net wide for people who wanted to help we’ve gotten a lot done together and we’ve had something to celberate together when it gets to lunch time. Its very satisfying being able to sit back and see what we’ve gotten done.
As I write this morning I’m on the way off to pack parcels this morning. On Mondays I normally pack parcels for Evan’s online retail business, Rival Sky Games. We’re sending miniatures for gaming to customers around the world, particularly Wings of Glory, Star Wars: Imperial Assault and various Axis and Allies lines. Obviously one of the reasons we do this is because we both need to be earning some money, but I have been thinking about the other reasons for doing the work.
One of the things that immediately comes to mind is that the business connects us with a whole lot of people all over the country and overseas. I also find that playing games is a great excuse to stay in touch with people and maintain connections, as well as make new ones.
When I was talking with Evan about this last week he mentioned that one of the reasons he got into selling games was because he was into the game Wings of War (which is now Wings of Glory), but there weren’t a lot of people into the game in Australia, and so it was hard to find people to play with. (I know what it’s like to have a game you’re really into, but struggling to find other people to play!) For that reason I find it encouraging when I notice two customers in the same city buying the same product, and wonder if they’re friends who’ve both just gotten into the game and will play together?