I've been scrabbling along my shelves looking for my copy of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet because there were thoughts crystallizing about work and about the way I lost my public-sector job this summer due to ill-health.
I've been having one of those weeks where everything seems to be trying to tell me something. You know, when a TV programme, or magazine article and even something you're reading in the latest Terry Pratchett (I learn a great deal from Tezzer) all seem to carry the same message, all on the same theme.
This time it's about work and, of course, my cross-artform piece, Severance. When I first started writing it, the monologues were very personal statements. Completely non-political, thoroughly self-involved. I thought, if they had broader meaning, it was in the context of cuts and austerity in general.
This week, the sub-conscious has finally broken through and I realise they are all specifically work-related. What happens when you are trapped and unhappy at work? What happens when you're thrown out of work? How does it feel when your work seems to have no value? Why have we all become so thoroughly accepting of these things as the norm?
That's what brought me to Gibran. I knew I'd read something in the past that had spoken to me about the value of work. And there it was - Work is love made visible. If we value the sweat of our brows and if we can see our work as valuable then it is the very expression of love for ourselves and for our world. It's a deep, deep need. Forged of course through countless millennia of prehistory when the product of our work, of our love, was clear.
I'm thinking of the obvious examples of the collaborative effort required to erect stone circles and rows. I'm also sure, though, that the divisions between art, spirituality and subsistence are modern ones and that we've lost a great deal by thinking in that segregated way.
For instance, where has the loss of spirituality in modern farming practice led us? Why is there so little room for art and expression in the ordinary working person's life? Where is the beauty in the design of practical, everyday things? This is all very Arts and Crafts, I know, and I throw the appropriate nod to William Morris and his “Lesser Arts”. But, right now, in the loss of my identity as a working person, I'm feeling these things keenly.
I feel disconnected from the flow of the world, that I have love, meaning and expression to share but it has been sharply truncated – severed. The loss of income is hurting me, yes, but much worse is my separation from the world. My work was my love made visible and now I have to hope that my writing can find another way.
JoJo Spinks is a Westcountry writer deeply in love with her landscape and her life!
"Thank you very much for joining me here. Please read on to explore more about Working in the Gift and my joint passions of participatory arts and the Devonian landscape." JoJo :)