Since the Industrial Revolution in the 17th century, western society sees “work” as a necessary evil to get money and live our lives. Work and personal life were torn apart, and slowly westerners learned to think that their lives only start after work. It is because of it that many people work during the week dreaming about the weekend, and work during their lives dreaming about retirement. It is for the same reason that others have abdicated their personal lives and made work their only objective in life.
This mentality was much weaker before the Industrial Revolution, since the place where one lived one’s personal life was the same where one would work – as a farmer, a blacksmith, a baker and so on. A person was known by the task he had in the local society. We had John the baker, Peter the blacksmith… a person’s life was defined by their work.
Of course, this culture could not continue when work moved from the local community to the factories, where John and Peter were both generic workers. You simply could not be defined by your work when the conditions of such work were so poor and where you did not meet the people benefited by your work or even saw the final result of your efforts.
However, after more than three centuries, we see again a generation that wants work to be part of their personal lives. The millennials are famous for their wish to study humanities and for their desire to be “artists,” musicians, writers and many other occupations that make their boomer parents freak out.
Even if this desire is only possible due to the healthy social conditions created by their “boomer parents,” I think millennials are also the result of an humanity tired of this unnatural modern mentality.
In this sense, the pandemic and the consequent social isolation have obliged us to bring our work into our homes. In one single year, we were able to experiment with the advantages of new technologies and we could not escape from the question of the place work should have in our personal lives. Those who focused only on their jobs had to finally learn how to reconcile their family and their home with their work.
In the book of Genesis, before anything else is said about man apart from its creation from clay, it is said God created man “and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen 2:15). The Bible, in its deep understanding of the nature of mankind, put work as the first occupation of a person. We must take the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink work.
It is time to understand the damage caused by the modern mentality about work and to consider the claims millennials make – even in their peculiar way of expressing it. Social isolation was bad in many aspects, but it showed us we cannot continue to sustain this hard separation between work and our personal lives.