The lump of my ‘workshyness’ and wanting to change the world

“I want to change the world.”

I state my desire to my deity in meditation at 7am aware as I do so of the rest of the world getting up, feeding the cats, walking the dog, jamming down breakfast, starting the car and joining the endless chug of exhaust fumes to offices and retail centres.

I’m not going to work today. My statement is laden with guilt. As I’m not working and have the luxury of sitting in meditation I feel driven to make my focus changing the world which forces so many other people into mind-numbing meaningless jobs:

sitting in call centres 9-5 Monday to Friday wired up to head phones trying to sell double glazing and insurance;

cleaning the crumbs and greasy handprints off the computers and desks and emptying the bins spilling sandwich and crisp wrappers of the people selling double glazing and insurance;

taking complaint after complaint about benefit fraud and dealing with the pettiness of complaints regarding people claiming to have had a heart attack or to be suffering from depression daring to go outside in the garden or take a walk.

I’m speaking from experience. I’ve done all these jobs: call centre, cleaner, benefit fraud hotline. I’ve also been a chamber maid, shelf-stacker, packer and administrative assistant. I’ve done what is necessary to support my study and later my writing and performing but never managed to stick such jobs because they conflict with what I really want to do.

It’s a vicious cycle and not one I can escape by earning money from my vocation. It’s extremely rare I get paid for my writing and performances or facilitating workshops. Occasionally I sell a book. My yearly income would barely keep me for a month.

If I lived in Nazi Germany I would no doubt be classified as ‘arbeitsscheu’ ‘workshy’ and incarcerated in a concentration camp. Horribly across the UK a similar phenomenon is recurring as people on disability benefits due to physical or mental illness are being reclassified as fit for work. In many instances this has led to suicide.

I’m lucky as I’m not forced to work full-time because my parents put me up. I’m not too ill to work at the moment but I have suffered from anxiety and depression (and still do on and off) and know soul-destroying jobs unfailingly grind me down to tears and hopelessness.

My desire to write goes first. Then my ability to commune with nature and hear the voices of the gods. Meaning and purpose swiftly departs and with that any reason to be alive. If I didn’t have the back-stop of my parents’ home and their support I don’t know what position I’d be in or if I’d be here at all.

Which is why I want to change the world. I want to live in a world where the life of every individual is intrinsically valued. Not this world where a person’s value is determined by their capacity to work in a meaningless job supporting an economy which benefits only the rich and is destroying the earth and human society. A world epitomised by the small-minded vindictiveness of someone who despises their job grassing up the person unable to work because of their depression for taking a walk.

Realistically I don’t possess many qualities suited to changing the world. I’m impractical, illogical and socially inept. I beat myself up continuously because I’m not cut out to be an activist or legislator. Attempting to take a stand on environmental issues at local council meetings I stumble on facts and figures and get the names of councillors wrong to smothered laughs. Unlike some people who buzz off social situations I find them draining and buckle quickly under pressure. I feel like a spare part at protests.(Although I still attend local meetings and protests and will continue to).

What I am good at is poetry and myth. Not the first places you’d look at a time when the greatest need is for manufacturers of pikes, rioters to wield them and thinkers who can traverse the lies and double-speak of parliament with the grace and dexterity of an otter.

Is there anything more useless to this world than a poet? I can think of nothing more useless and could not find a way out of my feelings of uselessness this morning when I dumped the statement of my desire to change the world like a lump of plasticine unformed and unceremoniously at the altar of my god.

Within this monstrous cacophany of thoughts you’re probably wondering whether he got a word in edgeways.

Gwyn ap Nudd’s a King of Annwn: a master of visions and glamoury renowned for his interruptions of hunting horns and a hundred hounds howling on otherworldly winds with a chill to stop one’s heart, his shining beauty and cauldron full of stars.

Today he’s silent. All I see is a depth of indigo and at its edges the melee of my thoughts rattling their pikes. Then further into the deep other pike rattlers throughout the ages who have stated the same desire albeit probably not to Annwn’s King.

Gwyn’s half-smile creases the indigo like a wave. Rattling through the ages comes the answer: there’s no easy solution.

I’m angry. That was not the answer I wanted to hear. I want to throw the ugly unformed plasticine lump of “I want to change the world” out of the window or into the deep.

Sensing my wish curious voices rise. Restless spirits reach forward to examine the plasticine with what may be hands or serpentine tails or wings. I get the impression they want to take it and mould it in their world.

Now it comes down to it I’m not sure I want to give my lump to them. I clutch it close to me. It’s my lump. My problem. My burden. What’s more I want to be seen carrying it and I want to be in control.

They prise it from my fingers. Hold it up to the starlight shining from the seas of Annwn. I see it for what it is. A desire in itself authentic but baked clumsily in the crucible of work and workshyness to the chant of uselessness and guilt. They dive with it back into the deep still indigo.

My guilt and uselessness dissolve and I realise they stem from taking on the values of a system set on devaluing all religion that it cannot harness for political control and all art that does not beg to the custodians of the establishment or market itself as mass entertainment. A system founded on the destruction of mytho-poetic worldviews.

I catch a glimmer of the Awen in what the system needs to keep destroyed. No easy solution but I see what I need to do.

I speak farewell to the lump of my ‘workshyness’ and wanting to change the world.

I assert the value of myth and poetry and the value of a poet ‘useless’ and ‘workshy’.

I pour a libation for Gwyn, the spirits of the deep, the pike-wielding ancestors and walk in trust with a pike in my hand to change the world.


*This piece was written yesterday and was provoked by two excellent articles on contemporary political issues: one by Brian Taylor ‘Austerity Watch, Cut to Death‘ and one by Mark Rosher ‘Living with Madness‘ and an awful article condemning ‘otherworldy polytheism’ by John Halstead ‘If It Doesn’t Help Me Save This World, I Don’t Want Your Polytheist Revolution‘.

16 thoughts on “The lump of my ‘workshyness’ and wanting to change the world

  1. Rhyd Wildermuth says:

    Yes, comrade. Solidarity. And I’m glad you brought up the work-shy.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the identity problem we have. We didn’t just lose our ability to survive outside of Capital with the enclosures and all the modern that’s come after, but access to the creation of our own self and identity.

    Work becomes our identity, because work is meaningful, which makes us miserable when it’s not the sort of work that we find meaningful. Someone wrote a few years back about ‘productive identities,’ and how people in one-industry towns (like coal-towns), when the industry dies, find themselves struggling to find a purpose in their life. It’s similar to what happens when someone is laid-off from work and ‘doesn’t know what to do with themselves.’

    What place for the poet or writer, indeed? We make nothing ‘useful,’ nothing that someone else can derive much wealth from. But we craft the very meaning of existence, which is why I think Ursula Le Guin has always been so insistent on the importance of writers ‘remembering what freedom was like.’

    Also, it’s useful to remember that the author of the awful article you mention is a trial lawyer for auto-insurance companies. A very dis-enchanted job, indeed, and morally foul. I really suspect his view on the gods and Paganism would change radically if he weren’t an active part of disenchanting it….

  2. R Cawkwell says:

    My anxiety (I’ve got my DWP Work Capability Assessment at 9 a.m. tomorrow 😦 ) is blocking my ability to make coherent comments, so I’ll just go with: yes, this, so much yes.

  3. S.C. Tanner says:

    Welcome to the machine. Our poets warned us about it, but we did not listen… we built the machine anyway. Now we are each simple cogs in that machine, or “another brick in the wall.” It is dehumanizing, but many find ways to desensitize themselves (e.g. drugs, alcohol, virtual reality, etc.) However, this is evidence that the work of the poets is noble and important, although it may not be very rewarding for most.

    As one who also seeks to free himself from the industrial lifestyle, I have been quite surprised to discover how insidious its many entanglements can be. There are no easy answers. The human spirit desires to dance, though.

    It is not easy to dance in the muck and mire of this industrialized civilization, but transformational magic is found in dancing. By learning to dance in this mess, we hopefully find our way out of it… or even better, improve the environment for future generations.

    The value of myth and poetry cannot be measured by the appreciation of a mechanized culture; do not be disillusioned. Everyone likes to dance, though, so they will hear the music sooner or later. I am pleased to read that you “assert the value of myth and poetry and the value of a poet ‘useless’ and ‘workshy’.”

  4. crychydd says:

    You are not ‘shy’ of the work of your vocation, the work you do for the Awen and the work you do to for the gods. It may not be valued as high status work by those who determine social attitudes, but it is valuable nonetheless. It may not bring you financial reward, but its value is of another order. And you do other things out of principle though they take you outside your comfort zone. So you can walk through the world with honour. And that is a rare commodity these days.

  5. Charlotte Hussey says:

    It’s a huge step and you have already taken it: to make your own meaning, with the help/guidance of your spirits friends and gods. As someone mentioned above, most people only find meaning in their jobs, or something exterior to themselves. When they retire, or get laid off, they fall apart. If we can spend a few hours a day making meaning for ourselves (via an art form or activism, etc.,) then it’s easier (maybe not perfect) to put up with all the meaninglessness of making a living, paying bills, and such. It’s really admirable how much you have stayed on your poetic path and true to Gwyn. Maybe you just need to keep asking for his help through this dark patch.

  6. finnchuillsmast says:

    We may not have much utilitarian value in the single vision of the bureaucrats and capitalists but we poets who speak the dark language of myths and the efficacious speech of the archaic poets vibrate the chords of the world.

    How I hate that the dominant culture has consigned art and poetry to simple entertainment to mine only for dollar or pound. But your poetry luminesces with true value, coin that is currency in dream and otherworld.

  7. angharadlois says:

    A wonderful vision.The world needs more than just activists and legislators. You are not illogical – you work to a different logic, and that is incredibly important because logic is not an absolute. People need reminding. As for social ineptitude, the work of the mystic or the ‘person inspired’ is difficult and draining, and requires solitude and peace for the visions to settle. All of which seems like a fair exchange, to me; I look to your visions for guidance, knowing you can articulate things which I cannot, things which my spirit needs to hear articulated. You don’t need me to tell you this, but there is value in your work.

  8. contemplativeinquiry says:

    I want to add my own support Lorna. You show extraordinary resilience and truth to visionary experience. You encourage me in my own efforts to stand by my own mysticism and allow it to be central in my life. Looking at the column of comments above, you are already making a difference to the world both in your stance and in your work.

  9. Nimue Brown says:

    Generally it isn’t legislation that changes the world, it is legislation that follows and enshrines the change. Anti slavery, votes for women, and pretty much everything else, came after the shift in belief that said ‘these things need to be different’. For every great shift there have been people to write the songs, the chants, the stories, the visions of a better thing that can inspire great masses of people to rethink their societies and assumptions. What could be more valuable than a poet? We need to dismantle the myth that work, no matter what it costs the earth and how little it achieves or how it destroys dignity, is somehow a good thing. We need to reimagine what work is. You are a powerful voice in this. You are heard, and you are valued.

  10. lornasmithers says:

    Many thanks to everybody who has added their support here. It is highly valued and appreciated. I think one of the things the system drives poets / writers to believe is their value (or in their terms success) is measured by sales, reviews, winning competitions and regional / national recognition. Whereas for an awenydd it’s determined more by service to the gods and spirits and one’s communities. We don’t know much about the awenyddion of old and that’s maybe because they quietly served their deities and communities rather than aiming for wider recognition. And that in itself is a way of standing against the system in the little known wild green crevices that lead to the otherworlds and maintaining them for futurity…

  11. Fjothr Odinsdottir Lokakvan says:

    Thank you for this; I’ll be passing it on – I know too many other people who get ground down by what we’re told “value” is related to “work.”

    Without poets or myth-tellers to provide inspiration, and often unexpected support, I don’t where I’d be today. Certainly poorer in spirit.

  12. Awen says:

    Being on disability Raven Kaldera once joked to me was the government stipend for artists, mystics and activists. I don’t believe that there is right livelihood in capitalism. If I wasn’t so incredibly ill, I wouldn’t not be able to do the work I’m here to do. Disabled people are often upset by the identity question first asked “what do you do?” I had a friend who made money cutting hair but her passion was writing. I said don’t wait to be published or get money before saying “I write.” That’s what she did. Many people could say “I watch tv.” What do you do, you as your true self? That’s not related to paychecks. In times of classism being more defined and how you’d probably do what your family did, or which caste you were in in old Briton would tell everything about you, including what Gods you honored. There was little chance to be anything than what you were born into. Today we have choice of what we may study but the job market (where we shop for work) isn’t diverse. There’s no way to drop out of the system. What we do for money is help a system that serves a tiny group of sociopaths get richer and enable them to make sure there’s nothing left when they die.

    You planted trees that will outlive the political fads. You’re a connection between the past and a future you can only trust Gwyn ap Nudd knows how you will affect. The visionaries rarely see the results of their work. To let yourself become discouraged by the present denies all the things that will or are happening you won’t see. It’s faith. Gwyn ap Nudd wouldn’t waste his time on something that isn’t in your long-term good (although short term may be a nightmare) and necessary for the betterment of the world.

    People of color often have internalized racism. I face my internalized ableism. Internalizing the oppressors message and beliefs keeps us from being what they fear: people who feel empowered and don’t need the oppressors validation. I say that my mind has been colonized and I have to regain lost territory.

    Steve Biko put it well, about how the masters don’t have to even do anything once the slaves are convinced they are powerless. Then people police each other, parroting the oppressors words, killing each other spirits in the grief of denying their own.

    You have no idea what any of your actions will lead to. I’d say if Gwyn approves, who’s validation do you need? He’s the one closest to you and has helped you the most, more than humans. And I think you’ve already changed the world or are caught in the change happening, the economic and ecological collapse, you’re part of the Solution without having to have a master plan.

    The man famous for planting trees was asked what he’d do if a nuclear war began. He said “Plant a tree.” Because we do what we do because it’s what we do. Even in the face of nuclear war, missiles coming.

    I think you’ve had enough unexpected results and events to know you can’t know, at least not until much later, you can trust, you and Gwyn have history.

    As a polytheist I’d ask him if he called you to change the world, a huge vague concept, or if you’re limiting your vision of what’s possible, of what that means. What if holding his space in the world today is more than enough? What ripples are there in the well of wyrd? You’re opening portals closed for many years. The Deities and ancestors who have access to those gates, they know what is needed. You’re not alone, you’re surrounded by grateful dead and their King. You’re bringing them back to life here where they can effect so many, people you’ll never know.

    I don’t think many artists see the point of their work other than the must do it. As the daughter of an art historian, so many times I’ve learned of amazing movements that 30 or 300 years later inspired social change. The artist never could have expected that.

    And if Hitler thinks you’re undesirable, you’re in great company!

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