Monday, July 27, 2009

Total Workers of the World, Unite

so, it's Infinite Summer, which means some of your more internet-y friends (and CSD blogmigos) might be reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. As a representative of the caucus of previous readers, I say a hearty thank you. because now we can talk about the book in public without seeming like pretentious dicks (or maybe just slightly less pretentious dicks). but that's not what I come to talk about. I come to talk about new phrases.

IJ contains the concept of Total Worry. It is described "as a reverse-Buddhism, a state of Total Worry" and conveys the inner life of Charles Tavis, and Enfield adminstrator. I believe that this phrase may itself be an allusion to Clauswitz's "Total War" but I prefer to keep the phrase in its new, urban-neurotic context.

I propose "Total Work."

Certain subsets of my peers and colleagues seem to work literally all the time. Every weekend, every evening until 9. They seem not to exist socially, or if they do, they never totally turn their work brain off--doctors, lawyers, many consultants, bankers. We have long-understood these demands as a society but have lacked a crisp term for this kind of job. We frequently have only the language of our mothers about "careers" and "success". I think Total Work can bring a clear, succinct phrase to the life of such persons.

I also like the whimsy of the term's bellicose origins--as if the Total Worker is waging unconditional work against the world with no regard for impacts on civilians or children.

I myself have been shading ever closer to Total Work, much to my displeasure (due to undercompensation compared to many Total Workers)

3 comments:

Wade Garrett said...

I second literally everything you said in your post, with the only caveat being that I only made it about 550 pages through the main text of Infinite Jest before putting it aside for bar exam-related reasons. Otherwise you are what we refer to in Brooklyn as dead-on-balls accurate.

Claire said...

Blogmigos = awesome

Ellen said...

I haven't gotten to Total Worry in the book yet, but I'd prefer the action and punch of Total Work to the vague and maddening concept of work-life balance. Waging unconditional work you can choose to do, whereas thinking about whether your life is balanced enough could actually propel you into Total Worry.