The problem with winning the rat race is you’re still a rat.
Lily Tomlin

Credit: the jollynomad
Credit: the jollynomad

I remembering listening to a radio broadcast almost a decade ago (probably on the CBC) about how electric lighting steals our sleep (more from NPR and Wikipedia). As recently as the late 19th century, people were averaging several hours of sleep more a night, and that changed once electric lighting came along. An illuminated environment keeps you stimulated and alert, and electric lighting keeps our environment illuminated for quite some time after the sun goes down.

It makes me think of what it really means to be wired in all the time. Because we can always be working, we’re not even sure anymore whether it’s actually expected of us or if we just feel obliged to do it. And if it’s because we do feel obliged, is it because we fear that it might be expected or that we’ll the competitive edge to a competitor or rival if we’re not always on the clock — and we probably will! As Hugh MacLeod put it:

Our parents and grandparents spent their Cognitive Surplus watching television. That’s a thing of the past… a historical accident of the old factory-worker age meeting the modern mass-media age. Of course it wouldn’t last forever. We humans as a species were designed to compete, not to sit around on our asses.

Welcome to the Overextended Class, People. You may opt out of it if you want, but over time it’s going to get harder and harder to make ends meet, let alone be successful, if you do.

And this gets me thinking that maybe the reason why there’s no rest for the wicked has nothing to do with some Catholic brand of eternal damnation or repressed guilt that haunts you in your sleep. Rather, it has to with how people who are consumed by their work lose touch with their humanity.

There’s no rest for the wicked because working too much makes you wicked , not because the wicked don’t know how to kick back and take a load off. It’s like the old saying goes: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Credit: Stanley Kurbick
Credit: Stanley Kubrick

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