Originally asked by Ilkka at my AMA Telegram Channel.
“Do you work always also on vacation? How do you relax? Is it necessary to relax?”
The concept of a “job” or “work” is a surprisingly new one, and as such, I feel it is important to remember our history, before answering your question. The modern job, in essence, is a luxury of having a choice of what you will do with your time. Our ancestors – never had that benefit. At first – we were all basically hunters, then gatherers. Eventually – farmers. We were all born into it. Why did we do it? Because that was what needed to be done for our race to survive. No choice. No CV’s. No interviews for getting the position of “head farmer”. You were born, and you did what had to be done in order to prevent humanity from extinction.
As such – your meaning of life was given to you at birth, and you knew what had to be done. Today, many of us are privileged by the modern concept of a job – and we can choose our vocation and how to spend our time. Due to this presence of choice, we often do not know what our meaning in life is, and spend much of our life going from one job to the next, only to find each following one just as meaningless as the previous. Why? Because most of the current jobs are factually meaningless. They are not advancing humanity anywhere, nor are they helping us to survive in any meaningful way. They have no effect on our civilization. Farmers in Bali, where I am writing this answer from, have a much higher impact on society than many full-time employees in the modern Western Civilization.
Why do I bring this up? Because I believe that we need to get back to the roots, and to start deconstructing the “modern job”. The 9-to-5 concept that you apply for, perform, and get money for. It is my goal to start creating a life, where my life is my work and my work is my life. Where none of what I do is actually a job, but simply things that I must do in order to get society to the next level. For instance, I feel that we all need to get back to this core meaning of working together as a tribe in order to advance the human race, to ensure survival, and to ensure growth for everyone on the planet. Therefore I am trying to arrange my life to be a collection of things that I do in order to help that goal.
Thinking that way, frees me from the concept of a “modern job”, and therefore when I am on vacation – I can work if I feel like it, and I can relax if I need it. What constitutes that work can be many things, given my personal goal, even things that many would not consider work: talking to friends about philosophy, watching Balinese farmers work and making notes, recording videos, travelling. Even spending time in the swimming pool can be “work”, as it helps me rejuvenate and collect my thoughts for the more intensive periods of activity. As such – work is a part of my relaxation and relaxation is a part of my work.
That said, I feel it is important to distinguish between relaxation and procrastination. Relaxation is the process of preparation for more active periods of either intense brain or body activity. While procrastination is the act of doing meaningless things INSTEAD of doing meaningful ones, when you had the proper energy to actually do them, but that is a whole other topic.
So how do I relax? That is actually very simple, and something I heard people talk about in Bali. When I am tired, I sleep. When I am hungry, I eat. When my body wants to move, I move. When my brain wants to write, I write. When I am in pain, I treat it. The only difficulty is to get to a state where I truly know what I want, and what my body wants – as I, like many of us, have been conditioned by society to have very little connection to these prime feelings. It took me a while to establish the link, but now that it is there – life is much easier and more rewarding. Still, unfortunately our brains can get distracted by addictions to social media, movies, and other sources of procrastination – and when we think we are relaxing – we are actually expending energy on something utterly useless.
As a summary – I always work, but not in the standard definition of a “job”, and I also always relax, but also not in the standard definition of “relaxation”, and finally – I feel like it is necessary to simply live your life and perform what needs to be done to help our civilization. When you do that – there is no longer any difference between “working” and “relaxing”. If you have ever worked in a garden, you know that it is extremely hard work on the body, but also extremely relaxing on the mind. Yin and Yang. Do both at the same time.