Busy

February 9, 2017 ☼ Word of the Day

Engaged in some business.

I knew an artist who worked at Zynga during the acme of FarmVille mania. She spent her days drawing tiny digital trees and was rewarded with USD, stock options, and tech snacks.

She and her colleagues plied their art in a building filled with other craftspeople—engineering, sales, Mark Pincus—each of them hefting their personal brick pixel on to the ever-growing edifice of FarmVille. You know, the Facebook game where you click on cows. She doesn’t work there anymore, but it used to keep her pretty busy.

The thought of a woman mousing pixel trees into existence popped into mind this week after my friend Josh forwarded me an article in Aeon magazine. He prepended the attachment with a mere: OMG.

Indeed. In this essay, James Livingston unpacks a sensible but excoriating argument against the enterprise of employment. Or as he puts it: “Fuck work.”

Certainly this crisis makes us ask: what comes after work? What would you do without your job as the external discipline that organises your waking life — as the social imperative that gets you up and on your way to the factory, the office, the store, the warehouse, the restaurant, wherever you work and, no matter how much you hate it, keeps you coming back? What would you do if you didn’t have to work to receive an income?

James, Livingston, Aeon Magazine

We like to think of busy as an adjective, but it’s got the stink of a verb. And a reflexive one at that. We’re not just busy, we busy ourselves. There’s absolutely no reason in 2017, in the age of abundance, the age of technology, the epoch of humans who have-so-much-they-need-less, and truly the epoch of incredulity—that anyone should be busy. Busy doing what?

Busy is my excuse for not writing my words this week. Busy because I am able to put a name to other things I’d rather do. Such is modernity. Busy because I chose to do those other things. Such is privilege.

Busy is an impressive catchall for alternative behavior. I may rail against busyness, but I mostly snort the self-inflicted variety. The truth is, I’m no busier than any of you, and I know that you aren’t busy (and you’re a liar if you say otherwise).

What can be said for certain is that we are all preoccupied, but that is a different matter altogether.