I have always felt disquiet at the “Do What you Love, Love what you Do” brand of motivational quotes that one finds printed ad nauseum in those horrid faux-leather diaries each year. I mean how many of us could ever live that grandiose ideal?

I came across “The Cult of Work: What is lost to our love of labor?” by Alana Massy online ( got me thinking about the whole notion that work should make us happy. She writes that, “the very concept of a dream job (is a) perverse notion that we ought to love that which is, in our current economic structure, compulsory for survival.”

Perhaps the whole concept of finding fulfilment in our work is a formula for unhappiness? She continues,  

“When we ask children what they want to be when they grow up, they often don’t tell us professions at all. I personally wanted to be my sister but with a mermaid’s tail. My childhood best friend legendarily reported a desire to be a stove in a wall. When children do dream of professions, they often aspire to work in productive fields like medicine and space exploration or entertainment jobs like singing and acting. I have yet to hear a child report their dream of becoming a marketing associate, an account executive, a general manager, or any other vacuous title given to the three quarters of the US labor force employed in professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service work. Anthropologist David Graeber dubbed these “bullshit jobs,” and he posits that they exist to serve moral and political goals. He writes:

The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger… And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.

We rarely consider the perversity of asking children who have scarcely learned to spell their own names what they hope to do when they’re eventually ushered into an economy wherein we increasingly labor for the sake of laboring in the service of survival. (Or the perversity of the language we use to do it: “What do you want to BE? What do you want to DO?” as though a job is the only defining element of making a life.) We laugh and shake our progressive heads when a little girl wants to be a princess, gently clarifying, “No little one, I mean how do you hope to toil so that you and your family might not starve?” This refusal to recognize the cleverness of knowing that the best gig is often to inherit wealth and go on to marry well is part of our pathological commitment to work as something that shapes our identity and makes us whole.

Our relationship with work is such that we see it not as an unpleasant or even morally neutral fact of life but as a potential source of personal enrichment and even love.

She has a point: there is something grimly utilitarian in the notion that we must “earn our living”; In this view, life is not a gift, but a commodity (which parallels the definition of ourselves as consumers – the ultimate depersonalization). But that we must love earning our living is akin to decking out our suffocating little prison cells in pretty pastel shades and choosing floral patterns for our bunkbeds. Nine tenths of humanity’s “labor force” (another dehumanising euphemism) work in shitty jobs because that’s how it is if you don’t want life to become immeasurably more shitty.

We live in a world in which increasingly the labor force is seen as an evil necessity to be “shed, rationalized, rebalanced” or just plain gotten rid of in order to maintain the profit share of the investors. If Jeremy Rifkin is to be believed in The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era there may in the not too distant future be very little work for us to love.

Continue reading “work”



I spent some of my childhood in rural Oxfordshire, not far from Wittenham Clumps, a pre-roman, iron-age fort comprising two grassy hills, the taller of which had a copse of beech trees on top. Some distance beyond was the River Thames with a broad weir, 18th century lock and a medieval watermill which to this day pounds the dark water beneath its large oak wheel. As a child I loved to explore the countryside, cycling, clambering, eating blackberries from the hedgerows, sometimes throwing myself down in the middle of a vast wheat field or, in winter, walking across an expanse of untrodden snow.

On one such occasion, I came across a rabbit dying from what I later understood to be myxomatosis, a disease deliberately introduced into nature by practical-minded humans to control the rabbit population. I knew none of this at the time, just that the little creature was in terrible distress, breathing quickly and heavily, it’s badly swollen eyes oozing pus, it’s furry body soaked in sweat and covered in superating tumors. I was afraid to touch it; I think it was too sick to feel any fear of me. I sat in the ditch with the dying creature for a long time.

Now this will sound melodramatic – but I will say it anyway: crouching in that ditch it was as if I had somehow become the rabbit, and the rabbit’s pain had ‘entered’ into me. (Nonsense! Such identification with – or empathy for – an animal, is unlikely in a boy of 10, and this whole story must simply be the colouring of memory!) But the intensity of the experience was, I believe, quite mystical. It was as if the animal’s suffering – once contained by the ‘wier’ of it’s solitary pain, now spread out like a river, flooding through invisible waterways and into me. In voodoo, in the tribe-totems of the native americans, in shamanic trance, in animist and other traditional beliefs systems, we can unite with the spirit of an animal, or the animal may enter us. 

Dama is … a joint where the living, the ancestors, and the animals of the bush meet to transact the deeper relationality of Dogon mythical thought… One’s animal kikinu (spiritual principles) can manifest in one’s eyes, and a skilled expert can determine one’s animal, or totemic, ancestor. The interrelationships of inner ancestral and animal dimensions are principles of personhood important during the Dogon maturing process… masks came from yénéu, the spirits of the bush and its animals … One of the cardinal beliefs in the traditional religious heritage of Africa is the interconnectedness of all that exists … for this reason certain objects in nature, such as animals and trees, feature in the spirituality of traditional Africa and are treated with reverance. Human faculties of consciousness, will, and purpose are attributed to objects with life, and thus communication between humans and other forms of life is possible.”

From “A Communion of subjects: Animals in religion, science and ethics” by  Paul Waldau and Kimberley Patton

Of course, to the scientifically-minded among us, this is all nonsense. So was this then perhaps merely an over-active childhood imagination, or a stress-induced, psychotic experience of sorts?  The disorientation, intensity of feeling coupled with a sense of unreality and the disruption of normal time, suggest this might be the case. Yes, that must be it.

I stayed with the rabbit and only left some time after it had stopped breathing. My shoes and shorts were wet and muddy from the ditch which was used to bring water along the course of the hedgerows and into the fields. Returning home, I was met with my father’s anger and a telling-off from my mother because I had been gone so long. Somehow I had lost all sense of time in that ditch – I could have been there for a moment, a day, longer even. I didn’t try to explain, I couldn’t explain and there was no need to explain. Returning home after dark, I distinctly recall a sense of complete calm. Though just a boy, I understood at some level of my child-consciousness that I had experienced the sacred.

 I was born in 1963, the Chinese year of the Water Rabbit.

“Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul.”  ~ Pythagoras

strange words indeed

supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism

Supralapsarianism (also antelapsarianism) is the view that God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically preceded the decree of the fall while infralapsarianism (also called postlapsarianism and sublapsarianism) asserts that God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically succeeded the decree of the fall.

The logical order of God’s decrees in Calvinist theology is the study of the logical order (in God’s mind, before Creation) of the decree to ordain or allow the fall of man andreprobation in relation to his decree to elect and save sinners. Several opposing positions have been proposed, all of which have names with the Latin root lapsus meaning fall.

Supralapsarianism (also antelapsarianism) is the view that God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically preceded the decree of the fall while infralapsarianism (also called postlapsarianism and sublapsarianism) asserts that God’s decrees of election and reprobation logically succeeded the decree of the fall. The words can also be used in connection with other topics, e.g. supra- and infralapsarian christology.

Many Calvinists reject both lapsarian views for various reasons. Herman Bavinck rejected both because he sees the entire system of God’s plan of salvation as organic with each part mutually dependent and determinative, rather than some parts “causing” others. Other Calvinists (and many non-Calvinists) reject the lapsarian views because they perceive any particular ordering of the decrees as unnecessary and presumptive speculation. Critics of lapsarianism often argue that it is impossible to conceive of a temporal process by which God, in eternity, issued decrees, and it is impossible to know the mind of God without direct, scriptural documentation.

You may ask why I have shared this somewhat arcane definition, given that it is difficult to understand and that most people I know could care less. Well firstly, I simply enjoy the sound of the words. antelapsarianism – say it aloud – wonderful isn’t it? and infralapsarianism – is that antelapsarianism with a special red light?  These words are just so suggestive of all sorts of things completely unrelated to “The Decrees of God” (whatever that means). Is antelapsarianism about “lapsing”? Something to do with the inhabitants of Lapland? Or is it to do with lapsidaisical – itself a corruption of  lackadaisical  – “lacking spirit or liveliness, idle or indolent especially in a dreamy way”? 

I have also shared this definition as a point of departure: I find it interesting that well-meaning (and some not-so-well-meaning) men and women through the centuries have presumed to know not only the Will of God for the world, but in addition to have what appears to be a self-appointed, almost ex officio claim to Knowing The Mind of God and His Will for me. And often as not the individuals making these claims are either unsavoury characters (the proverbial Watchtower-weilding JW duo in their tatty suits at the door) or at least largely ignorant of their own theological traditions.  The assumption here is that I do not know the Will and Mind of God (which admittedly I do not) and they do. The certainty with which it is proclaimed is always disconcerting if you are like me, a thorough-going pyrrhonist, “doubting even my doubts”. The trouble with such vehement certainty is that without exception it casts me – and you – (and most of the inhabitants of this planet for that matter) in the default position of the Ignorant, Unbeliever, Heathen, Wrongdoer, Transgressor, Infidel, Evil Other, Outsider, Kāfir.

For me – and for you – to question this presumed knowledge of The Mind and Will of God, is to land us in dire straits both here and in the afterlife. The tacit assertion that They who Know are going to heaven and We who do not Know are excluded – has always been a precursor to intolerance and a conceit that would have caused Jesus to fashion a whip and turn over a few tables.


Ar y dechrau cyntaf, dyma Duw yn creu y bydysawd a’r ddaear. Roedd y ddaear yn anhrefn gwag, ac roedd hi’n hollol dywyll dros y dŵr dwfn. Ond roedd Ysbryd Duw yn hofran dros wyneb y dŵr. A dwedodd Duw, “Dw i eisiau golau!” a daeth golau i fod. Roedd Duw yn gweld bod hyn yn dda, a dyma Duw yn gwahanu’r golau oddi wrth y tywyllwch. Rhoddodd Duw yr enw “dydd” i’r golau a’r enw “nos” i’r tywyllwch, ac roedd nos a dydd ar y diwrnod cyntaf.

The text above is an example of Welsh (Cymraeg or y Gymraeg), a member of the Brittonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales (Cymru). The varieties of Brythonic spoken in different parts of Britain, and by Brythonic-speaking migrants to Brittany, began to develop into separate languages: Welsh in Wales, Cornish in Cornwall, Breton in Brittany and Cumbric in Cumbria.

As a child my family would spend our holidays in South Wales, my father having been born and raised on Penrhyn Gŵyr – The Gower Peninsula – home to menhirs from the Bronze Age and crumbling medieval castles.

I remember my grandfather’s soft, lilting welsh accent, and my aunt speaking the mysterious-sounding, ancient language. I remember the beauty of the countryside and the rugged coastline with names perfectly suited to a schoolboy’s imagination: The Mumbles, Worms Head, Arthur’s Stone. I was fascinated as a boy by the fierce-looking red dragon on the national flag, and I imagined my ancestors now lost in the mists of time: Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Romans, Normans, Druids, Celts.