February 15, 2016

Horse 2074 - Remember The Quiet Workers (Exodus 37-40)

Our church is currently on a program of reading through the bible in a year. Although this sounds like a monumental task, it probably works out to be no more difficult than reading through something like the four great works of Chinese literature, or the major works of Tolstoy over a similar period.
As of today (the 15th of February; or what Snoopy called Gloat Day - the day that you're supposed to gloat over how many Valentine's Day cards you got), we completed the book of Exodus. The Exodus being the story of the Jewish nation being led out of captivity under Pharonic Egypt and into a period of nomadic life. The book of Exodus concludes with the completion of the Tabernacle, which is a movable Tent Of Meeting, where God would meet with the nation. Mostly the end of my book of Exodus is a list of directions as to how to build the tabernacle and then a description of that list of instructions being carried out. As far as grand narrative goes, the best word to describe such a thing is "dry". To be totally blunt, it is a little dull; although having said that, it's not like it was designed to be exciting.

This brings me to the point of this blog post. We live in a multi coloured, all singing, all dancing, super-hyper über flashy society. In less than one hundred years, we've gone from a world where the most exciting forms of media was text in a newspaper or novel, through a world where audio was king, a time where cinema had no sounds, to talkies where sounds and audio were married, to having television transmitted directly into people's homes, firstly in black and white, then in full colour, then live from anywhere in the world, to the point now where you can literally watch just about anything you like on a device which you can put in your pocket. Despite all of this, we're still bored.
We have the ability to watch live sport, cartoons, epic movies, dramas, politics, the news from everywhere in real time and yet I see people on the train who are still bored as they match up saccharin pieces of candy which will give you diabetes just from looking at them, so they can score ten thousand glorious points.

We want everything done now if not yesterday or sooner. We want to live in a dream, in a record machine; we want the whole world inside our mouths. We want everything to be yummy yummy yummy and we will spit out everything that's not yummy. It is as if in the battle between ego, superego and id, that the id has been let loose inside a lolly shop and is disappointed if everything it wants isn't available right here and right now.

This insistence carries over into the world of work and business. As consumers we expect everything to work perfectly all the time and when we don't get it, we throw a great big hissy fit. When the Telstra mobile network went down for a few hours last week, the backlash was so vociferous that they ended up having to give away free data on Sunday to avoid any future bad publicity; that resulted in everyone piling onto the network to take advantage of the system while they could.
In our rush to demand the finest of everything available to humanity here and now, we often trample the people who deliver the goods and services we're impatiently demanding. Coupled with business' desire to lower input costs, this results in a degradation of our opinion of labour and of the people who provide it. When you have a degradation of opinion, this results in a loss of dignity and this is accelerated if we can classify people who labour for us as other.

So what does any of this have to do with the end of the book of Exodus and is a essentially a boring story? I think that the end of the book of Exodus is partly a boring story about work. Just like the list of credits in a movie is about returning dignity to the vast majority of people who you don't see in the movie; who actually did the bulk of the boring work, the end of the book of Exodus credits the people who built the tabernacle. Theologically it is about setting up a specific way that God should be approached and that that specific method was obediently carried out to the letter rather than an approximating but it also credits Bezalel, who otherwise would have gone down completely forgotten in history.

In our super-hyper über flashy world where we want everything done if not yesterday or sooner, it is all too easy to forget the people who do the boring jobs. I don't care if you do happen to be the CEO of some multi national corporation, if you don't treat the people who do the mundane tasks with dignity, then quite frankly you deserve to have your bins in your office overflowing of rotting and stinking rubbish. The cleaners, the retail staff, the store people, the administrators, the call center staff, the drivers and all the people who do the boring work, deserve to be treated with dignity; especially if you're too tight fisted and mean to pay them a decent wage.
This especially goes for those people who do things voluntarily; to help out. Those people don't even get recompensed for their effort and usually these are the people quietly working away; who everyone would immediately notice if their work wasn't done.

There's an old proverb which says that "steady plodding brings prosperity". I think that it's worth celebrating those who plod on. There should be dignity in dull plodding work. History might celebrate the big names but it makes many many plodders to build the world.

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