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    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Looking for a problem



    I think this is interesting.

    In our culture, the idea of too much work as a bad, even sinful, thing just has no traction. Maybe it's our Calvinist heritage. Or maybe it's that, while many sins are conceived as paired examples of excess (e.g., cowardice and foolhardiness), with virtue (courage) as the mean, I'm not sure there is a counterpart to the sin of sloth.

    link

    In reading Catholic Social Teachings on labor for my CST class, I've often strugged to make its lessons relevant to a class full of future (usually highly paid) lawyers.


    Part of the problem is that the CST discussions wage and hour issues typically address the question of workers who work long hours in order to put food on the table. Most of my students, however, are heading for the law firm world, where they will bill anywhere from 2200 to 3000 hours per year and work many additional non-billable hours and be well compensated for their sacrifice. The question of what to say to workers who would volunteer to work overly long hours is, apparently, not something the encyclical writers have even considered. But many of the harms identified in the CST writings as resulting from too much time at work -- e.g., not enough time for family, leisure, worship, or spiritual reflection -- are the same, whether the long hours are chosen or imposed by necessity.

    I think the answer is that "working too much" is a subjective psychological
    issue, not a sinful issue.


    It is mostly involved in the balance that is struck between an individual
    and their social environment when the amount of work time is somewhat voluntary.
    The impulse to work is no vice, but our nature since leaving Eden.


    For men it is the compliment to putting food on the table and providing
    shelter. For women it is the compliment to the 24/7 responsibilities of
    motherhood.


    Jesus and his group worked while not finding enough time to eat. Their
    time for prayer had to be carved out of their allocation for sleep. They had to
    be reminded now and then to gather themselves apart to pray. Now and then.
    That’s a good enough example for me.


    There is a point to be considered though regarding what exactly it is
    that we are working for. Food and shelter and extras have become way too large a
    goal which is simple materialism. After physical comforts have been secured, it
    would be good to expend effort elsewhere, I agree. But the expending of effort
    is never ending, or we have sloth. Except on Sunday of course.


    The opposite of sloth does not exist which is something that never
    occurred to me, but the message is plain. The problem of lawyers working 70
    hours is a problem of doing one thing beyond what is necessary for comfort. The
    apportionment of that work impulse to other non-lawyer activities, which
    hopefully advance the Kingdom, is perhaps Prudence.

    A mother of someone I know always said.. there will be time enough to sleep
    when were dead.

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