Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fallout from the workforce

October begins with the publication of my book Fallout from the workforce.

I'm experiencing a numbed silence that comes from so many mixed emotions that I feel suspended in this tiny, but significant moment. Lately, I've been excited at the thought of returning to blogging after taking such an extended time away from it to finish the book.

If you decide to read it, here's what you'll find.

Life as a member of the contingent workforce gives you a front row seat to the freak show of the job search industry. Steeped in appeals to prove value in a shape shifting labor market, the author turns her klieg light questioning to the world of the unemployed. Trying to avoid despair in the wake of a dead end career, she listens to the stories of other seekers. She then concludes what she has long suspected: the unspoken, unrealistic expectations of the American hiring machine thwarts the intentions of the men and women still seeking to control their connection to work.

Fallout from the Workforce is a story of self-discovery in combination with critique and analysis. The author brings together the stories of job seekers, and filters through a mass of conventional work search advice, finding wisdom in unexpected places. By piecing together the counsel of contemporary philosophers and psychologists she unearths a newly formed world view.  The remedies to the conundrums she presents are at times ancient in their origins and novel in their approach to understanding the pressures of the contemporary workplace. The ramifications of a tech-driven world while still not well understood for their magnitude of disruption, ultimately leaves this story an unending one. The phenomenon of the Great Recession, rather than being a temporary glitch, has been a destroyer of business-as-usual for millions. Fallout from the Workforce acknowledges the many thinkers of our time trying to steer us out of this period and toward the evolution of society. They lead us to a place where all can thrive as we pass through even greater disruptions to come.

There will be LOTS more commentary on this topic in weeks to come. Meanwhile, dig in! Leave a comment. Get busy. See you in cyberspace. Ciao.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The first quarter of a new year

I can't believe how long it has been since the last time I posted anything on my once vibrant blog.

In the intervening months I have moved to a new neighborhood, accepted a part-time job, and made a few new friends. Much is the same, but I have a more nuanced sense of what aging feels like now. That is a topic for another day.

There is a lot about my current situation that is very good, and on the days when I can recognize that fully, I am grateful as a person should be.

I recently finished reading Barbara Ehrenreich's autobiography, Living with a wild god. She is one of my favorite writers. She makes the craft seem effortless. My own efforts feel sporadic and choppy. I am forever having to piece things together and inject additional context just to make my thoughts stick together properly on the page.

My complaints as well as my praise are much the same as in previous years; however, I have a new person to add to the praise column.

His name is Guy Standing and I recently discovered him on that font of video recordings, YouTube.

All you need do is key in his name and choose whichever one suits the time you have available to watch it. He is spot on.

Go. You'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Just another teaser

It was a long and fruitful summer. At last I've turned the corner on a chapter that marks a very significant turning point for my book.

Here is another snippet:

Again, I’ve raised more questions than I’ve answered. I’ve looked as far as I can go from a computer screen. I’ve dropped hints, made suggestions, and sneered at human foibles when overwhelmed by the absurdities. In the process of performing this mental exercise I’ve had the opportunity to expose some nagging thoughts. I’ve tested them out to see if they were reason enough to think that my fate hinged on their existence. I have since reasoned that the answer is—no. I am guilty, though, of giving some of them too much power over my state of mind. How else could I write about them so passionately? Dang. Another question.

One can stand and stir the pot for only so long. Sooner or later the fire dies, the pot grows cold, and I have to pull off the witch’s hat and look elsewhere for better incantations. The next chapter represents an oasis of contemplation far from the polarized monologue of the fate of capitalism. It is in some of these proposals that I find the greatest source of understanding, if not solace, for my long-wandering heart.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Neglected for all the right reasons

The title of this post pretty much sums up how I feel about my absence from writing for TFCC.
You may remember that I'm writing a book. I am slowly making progress, but there are now multiple related activities grabbing my time and attention. This will no doubt continue for quite some time.
Here is a tiny snippet from the first chapter:

It is as if going to work was the glue that held you together. Without the certainty of having to get out of bed, go someplace, and throw yourself into some task, pieces of you would start to break off like an ancient glacier calving at the edge of an ocean. What you used to know to the smallest detail would now become reabsorbed into an undefinable body of water. What you didn't know is that no matter how far that glacier recedes, the land mass beneath remains an untapped ecosystem that you've been led to believe no longer exists or can’t be revived. But spring always comes as day follows night and you learn how to withstand the passage of time without losing solid ground.
My hope is to finish this work by the end of the year. That said, it is highly unlikely I will be posting again any time soon. Thanks for checking back in from time to time. I will forever be....the twenty-first century citizen.

Yours truly,
M. C. Van Oel

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sightline schmoozefest

Today I was invited to an event at Sightline Institute. The topic of conversation for this event next month will be climate change. The email touted conversations and social connections as the way to begin creating change.
As a member of the Sightline community, you're part of a web of connections that make Sightline so effective, and that ultimately leads to change. 
I hope they're right.

Perspective Shift

This afternoon as I was working in the home office. The distracting whirr of the local leaf blower guy grabbed my attention as it usually does. This offending noise has been an ongoing situation. I have yet to figure out how to deal with it effectively. The guy can only shrug and say it is his job. This time he pulled out his cell phone and called the company he works for and allowed me to have my say with his employer who was surprisingly well versed in the city's noise abatement stipulations. She was far more defensive than she needed to be. I knew I was beat.

So what does this have to do with a climate change think tank? Follow the breadcrumbs.

We've got this lovely, noisy, energy-swilling device created to make work lighter. The device is manufactured because ostensibly it is filling a need in the marketplace. However, the work is nothing more than collecting leaves and moving them to trash bins. This is typically done with a rake. As I have personally discovered, with big jobs this is accomplished quite neatly with collecting the leaves onto a blue tarp, pulling up the corners of the tarp and hauling them to the proper dumping site. Good, clean work done efficiently with human energy.

Inject machinery usage, multiple energy requirements: electricity, oil for parts etc., and the noise pollution in a densely populated neighborhood, and what do you get?

You get some wiseacre, yours truly, left wondering why abandon the rake?

And again, what does this have to do with the good-hearted think tank?

Well, if I'm going to be encouraged to chat about the current state of climate change action, this is what I need:
  • I need a say in revising this version of human "progress" with machinery usage.
  • I'd like to have a conversation with the management company that only knows me as someone who complains.
  • I'd like to convince this guy to be concerned about his hearing that he will soon be losing. He doesn't wear ear protection. I'm not kidding; you can hear this machine from two blocks away.
  • I'd like to know if the wasted energy use and human impact explanations are understood.
Every human interaction, every expenditure of extracted industrial energy is open to scrutiny. Presumably this guy is getting paid for his labor. I am certain that the 45 minutes he blows leaves would be more effectively used raking. He simply shows up and does his "work" and there is no measure of effectiveness for the effort taken to redistribute leaves. (That's right. He doesn't collect them or dispose of them later. He just blows.) He gets a paycheck and so the economy is happy, but everything else suffers and continues unseen.

Allow me to be effective in one tiny area of life and I'd gladly show up to schmooze about how humanity can save itself from climate disasters--one leaf blower at a time.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The first free will offering of 2014

Last week I was leaving the market walking south on first avenue. I passed someone in a wheelchair and a couple steps later heard a faint, "Excuse me".  I slowed down to make sure the request was directed at me. "Excuse me", he said again with no greater insistence, just very calmly.

Often I don't stop, but this time my social filters told me--it's OK there is nothing to be lost here. I walked up beside the young man. I thought he was maybe in his early twenties. He immediately thanked me for not ignoring him like everyone else. He quickly told me his story. Diabetic, wound on his leg, no health insurance, etc. He showed me his wound. His right ankle was red and swollen with large scabs; I could barely look at it and told him so. I immediately apologized. What had gotten into me?

These chance encounters are so full of clues and I felt I was only playing a part in some little drama. When reality is too much I'm just in someone else's movie. It takes the pressure off.

He had a short stack of papers clipped together and a cell phone on his lap. He showed me the name of the drug he was taking. I recognized it as a powerful antibiotic. Underneath that sheet was a bus schedule with a list of figures written in black Sharpie. They were unidentified costs large and small and obviously adding up quickly. Every word from him was matter-of-fact with no hint that any of it was less than true. "I need ten bucks to get out of the hole", he said.

I reached into my bag and pulled out a couple fives. I said something that quashed the gods of self-consciousness, and so was more for me than him. "Some people would say don't trust him, but I don't give a fuck."

He looked up at me with a stare that said, I can't believe you just did that. And then he said something I knew was not necessarily part of the typical beggar's vernacular. "I'll pay it forward. I always do." Instantly he became a new person, more complete in my mind's eye even as I knew nothing else about him. I patted him on the shoulder probably more forcefully than I needed to and quickly continued on my way lest I became emotional and embarrassed.

My hyper imagination allows random feelings to live too close to the surface. It confuses me. I constantly need to check in with other sources to understand what the hell is going on. One of those sources is Charles Eisenstein.
I recently finished his book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. It is a series of essays like no other I've ever read. Eisenstein is known for dissecting the underlying currents, or lack thereof, behind currency transactions. The connection I made with this person was so vague and tangential, but it wouldn't have existed at all had I not engaged in some kind of conversation. Of course, I could have taken out a couple bills and stuffed them in his hand and walked away without a word. Then what?

He would have gotten his money just the same, but he would not have had the opportunity to justify the validity of his need and thus to explain the context of his life. By refusing to comprehend my own involvement in a life as fragile as his own I am living a lie that is encouraged by a  silent currency transaction. And so, if one fails to connect the power of money with the power of human connection that power is hideously misused. It is a power that acknowledges only the necessity of the transaction and denigrates the value of the players as if they are only conduits, like having electricity without wires, it is just static that fills the air waiting to find a place to spark. Perhaps that is why it is popular to say that money is energy. This only points out how easily symbols are confused with the real thing. Money doesn't have energy, people do. (Sound familiar?) Redistribution of money sounds like a very unpopular political initiative, but if the comparison to energy is valid why not frame it as realigning chi? Get the flow going. Prevent stagnation for better health. Here the comparison works. Scarcity quickly becomes the lie it is.


If the value of money could somehow be conjoined with the idea of caring and sustaining the continuation of life, and simultaneously be dismantled from the idea that over accumulation is the requirement for well-being, then those with way too much of it might want to dispense with their excesses in order to regain some shares of love. What a concept! Obviously, I'm not afraid of sounding a little silly in order to make a point. Conjecture often gets to a version of the truth that works if only in writing. I'd like to think it is self-evident that money without relationship is a cold, dead _______________. Fill in the blank. You'll never get any love from it. This is obvious, but where is the movement?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Emotional fluency

Noticed I've been repeatedly listening to Pharrell Williams's Happy vid on YouTube lately. This is dangerous. You know me. I take a thoughtful approach. I seek to analyze. I look for connections.

And then,....sometimes I just sit back. I relax that mind muscle and wait to see what happens.

I've long known that intellect is highly overrated. It simply does not override all the things that take us for an emotional ride--the kind that helps us lose attachment to time and a certain self-consciousness--the kind that creates in us a sublime openness, a sense of freedom; and even as we experience it we know it is short lived, temporary, and still we don't care. In that moment is the most beautiful complete moment of being human. And silly as it sounds, we are embarrassed by what gets us there. Such is the beauty of a simple tune and a few images of cavorting, dancing individuals who appear carefree and entice us to do the same.

That is why happiness is so benign and its power so irritatingly undefinable. We're embarrassed to acknowledge that we can be so easily manipulated and yet love it and appreciate so much more. That moment when we decide we don't care is probably the most important threshold we will ever cross.

We are living in a space that belongs completely to us, and it is so benign and loving it can't be reached with criticism from any source or at any volume. When we are happy we are untouchable by all that. It is illusive and short lived, and that is its beauty. No wonder.

No wonder at all. 

Happiness then is a release from all the self-consciousness we believe we are compelled to feel, when in fact it is not our natural inclination, but an imposition we give in to grudgingly.

It is the edge of spring on the 47th parallel and longer days will soon be upon us and how are we going to fill them except with being .....happy???

Clap along.