Gainful unemployment has gotten a bad rap as basically lazy freeloaders leaching off society who can’t risk losing benefits by getting a real job.
I am trying to rehabilitate gainful unemployment. Or take “gainful employment” down a notch. Often “gainful employment” involves slavish dedication to someone else’s goals in exchange for money that maybe some day you can make enough of to finally pursue your own path. Employment implies working for “The Man”. Usually all the money gets consumed maintaining the support systems around earning the money and the hamster wheel spins ever faster. Regardless of income level. Stepping off or being kicked off the hamster wheel often elicits a truly Orwellian desire to get back on. Western society teaches us that “gainful employment” fundamental to everything it means to be alive. I have a problem with that thesis.
What if unemployment was simply not working for The Man. What if rather than demonizing the unemployed as lazy freeloaders, we encouraged them to take the time to examine their path and find work that more authentically fit their true selves? Recently I have been running into more people who are getting it right. After reading The Journey Home by Radhanath Swami, about the revered path of a wandering mendicant in India, I was struck by the stark contrast in how the unemployed are treated. In India or Tibet, a buy on the street begging might just be an enlightened guru. In America that thought wouldn’t even cross anyone’s mind. The Puritan’s sure did a number on us our collective consciousness when they implanted “hard work” = “good person”, “no work” = “sinner, devil” into our collective consciousness. What if more people took time pause and consider their path? What if we encouraged it? Contemplation of your path is the “gainful” part. If more people were living in alignment with their strengths and authentic selves, wouldn’t we all be better off? Sometimes that takes a couple tries, and a couple pivots and pauses.
For the last three years I have considered myself “gainfully unemployed”. I have not had a boss, nor have I been the boss of anyone. While not on a 9-5 schedule, I have pursued many projects and activities to help myself and others. I have spent quite a bit of time contemplating the path, the goals, the type and form of goals, exploring various diversions, and connecting with many people and places. I have invested time and money into many projects across the spectrum. This blog is part of this contemplation path. While I don’ t know what the exact destination is, there is alot of activity. Sometimes it is better to journey than to arrive.
So “gainfully unemployed” is actively taking time to contemplate and explore the path in life on your own terms. Something I highly recommend for at least a year for everyone who can.
Also published on Medium.