Friday, March 23, 2007

The Last Taboo

Last month at Desert Nights, Rising Stars, the writing conference at ASU, I went to a workshop called The Last Taboo: Writing About Daily Work with Tom Wayman. His premise was that work is central to the human experience, but long neglected by the arts. Every human emotion takes place at work, but something happens at work that makes writing about it taboo.

I'm reminded of the first on-line writing group I participated in. Everyone sent a bio via email. No one mentioned work. I thought perhaps I had stumbled on the first well-paid group of writers in the world. Some folks did have published books...perhaps they actually earned a living writing! But, alas, no. Work just wasn't mentioned in the bios as if it wasn't important. As if it was something to be ashamed of. Bullshit.

Spirituality and the workplace faces the same sort of taboo. Few people actually talk about work in their spiritual practices, which is odd because work can be a spiritual practice of making meaning. From much of what is in the literature about spirituality, spirituality seems to be something you do in your copious amount of your downtime. It takes month-long meditation retreats and expensive mats and cushions. Also, bullshit.

So, while these are thoughts in progress, I'll offer this work poem from Tom Wayman's anthology of work, Paperwork.


Pouring concrete is just like baking a cake.
The main difference is
that first you build the pans. Call them forms.
Think grand.
Mix the batter with a few simple ingredients:
one shovel of sand
one shovel of gravel
a pinch of cement.

Add water until it looks right.
Depends how you like it.
Can be mixed by hand or with a beater called
a Readi-Mix truck.
Pour into forms and smooth off.
Adjust the heat so it's not too cold,
not too hot. Protect from rain.
Let cook until tomorrow.
Remove the forms and walk on it.

There is one big difference from cakes.
This one will never disappear.
For the rest of your life your kids
will run on the same sidewalk, singing
My mom baked this!

Consider ordering Paperwork for more poetry about work.