Monday, December 8, 2008

On Becoming Human ... Or I'm a Statistic

This week I've become a statistic. One of ~90,000 jobs lost in California over the last month. AT&T layed off 12,000 "resources" (aka ... people) that very day, which is nothing compared to the 10 jobs lost in my companies SF office. It seems really inhumane the way these large corporations reduce, downsize, and hack the size of their "staff," their "resources". It seems that the further up you get, the less likely it is that the people will be called people, much less friends, and that the decisions made about who to cut where, will be made regarding "resources" that are largely unknown to the "management."

It's clear that no one who actually knows me was involved in the decision. Hopefully that makes it easier for them. I know that makes it easier for me. I am probably an ok guy, and they just don't know what they're doing. After all, they don't even really know me.

When I was in graduate school at the school of Wazzu, we practiced being human. It was our job. There was 16 of us, grad students in art. We loved and hated each other, the faculty, and the undergrads. We were the face to classes and accesible for schlepping stuff around, or helping at the firings (ceramics, not people), or bronze casting, to lecture ad hoc, read papers, spout untested opinions, give technical advice, but most importantly, to find the way to justify and explain are own humanity. To find the big T truth, to explain our very meanderings, the real arguments for the being in human being.

I remember at that time I was reading an amazing amount. I was also hiking and exploring the Bitterroots, the Palouse, Eastern Washington, and Idaho. I was exploring. I was looking for myself in a landscape of farmland and hard work, wilderness, and my own acute philpsophical mind. I was making Congoesque objects from grease and wool, and barbed wire, trying to heal myself. I was reading Vine Deloria and Jose Sepulveda, and arguing the case for my own ideas in a great scholastic swirl. The freedom to chase these ideas was intoxicating.

Like I said I was reading a shit load. I was looking to Pablo Neruda, Borges, Terry Tempest Williams, Edward Abbey for the evidence of my humanity. Neruda spoke of love and injustice, Borges of an undefinable dream, of desire, Abbey of the absolute, of travel in the wild, and Terry Tempest Williams of the desire of people to become human.

The desire to become human. Just think about that for a minute. Why is being human so difficult that we all want to do it. You might be wondering about now what this has to do with being layed off -- seemingly less than humanely.

How do we get to the place we where fear life without our job. That we won't survive. That our kids won't thrive. That we won't be defined well. How do we get to the point where the conversation is about whether or not we're willing to agree to not speak disparagingly about the company that is laying us off, in exchange for the small bit of severence they allot us. How do we get to the point where we call our co-workers, our friends, "resources."

It's because we don't take enough walks. We don't go outside. We focus on our stuff and not our actions.

I know this because I did it. When I finished grad school, I set out to make art; teach art. I worked for two years, showed all over the west. Lectured, won prizes. I made no money. I took a job out of desperation and turned it into a great career. I just got layed off in the middle of a an economic disaster and I am so delighted and scared. Why?

One. I doubt myself. Two. I know this is just another opportunity for me to be a human being. I know I can travel, work hard, be kind, and get by. I am relieved because I feel abused. Pay doesn't make up for abuse, time does. I am excited because I have been planning a trip for a while. I just needed to get some time to go. Now I can. I can go to Alaska and look for a job. I can retrain for a new career. I can try to find a way to have more fun and ride my bike.


Jonah said...

Well, then, rather than offering my usual Lebowskiesque, “that’s a bummer, man…” I’ll say congratulations on your newfound freedom - may it provide you with a fulfilling experience in flat tire paradise…

Barbara P said...

Hey Shawn,

Sorry to hear about the layoff's. But I know that you have a lot of other things that you have been wanting to do. So, good luck on your new adventure.


shawnkielty said...

Thanks, folks.

Barbara: I went for a ride with the Mushroom Girl. She really likes her new bike, your old bike. A lot. Really, a lot. She's planning on riding it to LA in the Aids Ride.

The Old Bag said...

Hey...sorry to hear...glad to hear. Nice post. It's through struggles that we're most in tune with being; and being so often slips through our fingers when the noise enters. Here's to you're being noise-free.

shawnkielty said...

hey OB -- thanks. I went out tooling around helping out my "Old Time Sign Guy" friend the other day. And we talked about ... become crazy old men, and just how that happens.

I been cleaning up my stuff and sorting through my old life ... looking for answers. Right now there's a strange remarkable smell tweaking my nose -- the smell of old oil paint. It's all about my fingers and makes my mind` sing.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

LAUREN said...

oh no!

i mean, kind of oh no -it's a little un nerving. and liberating.

so congratulations!