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Professor explains why it's hard to rest even when your tired
By Sarah Long | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/6/2009 12:02 AM

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I am always tired but I have trouble going to bed. I have been this way most of my life. There is always one more little thing to squeeze in for work or for the house or for something before I surrender the day. Sometimes I wait until I am so tired that I am too tired to make the effort to actually go to bed. What a paradox!

This past week I had the opportunity to interview Al Gini, professor of business ethics, Graduate School of Business, Loyola University. Gini is in demand as a speaker for a wide variety of interest groups, including librarians. Also, as he can be regularly heard as the Resident Philosopher on National Public Radio's Chicago affiliate, WBEZ-FM, I thought he would make a good podcast interview. I was right, and as a bonus, I got some insight into my own question about why it's hard to rest even when you are tired.

It turns out that Gini is a fellow sufferer. In the preface to his book, "My Job, My Self: Work and the Creation of the Modern Individual," Gini offers his own confession: "I am now and always have been a workaholic. Given my fascination with this topic, I am sure you're not surprised. But I am working hard (no pun intended) to control my addiction. Ironically, this project has made me appreciate and love my work even more. Nevertheless, I do not want to die at my desk with my last words being, 'I wish I had put in more time at the office.'"

Trained as a classical philosopher, Gini has the background and the skill to research this issue. Happily for the reader, he is a very human and funny man, a lover of words and a good writer. In "My Job, My Self" Gini notes that work in our society is more than a way to earn a living. It establishes one's identity. He also points out that the "earning a living" motivation has somehow gotten twisted into earning more and more and more to feed our consumerism urge.

"Emo, ergo sum - I shop therefore I am," he quips.

In a subsequent book, "The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure and Vacations," Gini notes that Americans work more hours per week than anyone, even the Japanese. Often our idea of a vacation is to go somewhere else and work really hard at seeing and experiencing all that the new place has to offer.

Gini suggests that as a culture we need to embrace the concept of the Sabbath, a real day of rest and reflection. He says leisure time should be not so planned, but reflective - even spiritual - offering one the opportunity to grow as a person and to relate to others. My favorite book on this concept is, "Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives," by Wayne Muller.

Obviously, if I am going to break my habit of doing in favor of rest and reflection, I am going to have to work at it. Sounds like another paradox.

Listen to my podcast interview with Al Gini at librarybeat.org/longshots. Hear our discussion about the role of humor in our lives and whether Gini thinks the current recession will help those out of work to learn a new approach to work and leisure.