Last night I was reminded of the healing power of work.
As I stood in a crowd of thousands, my eyes locked to the sight in front of me, sound physically assailing me, and tears streaming from my face I saw proof that when your world falls apart and everything seems lost, the best you can possibly do is do work that you love.
In July 2015 a young teenager I never met fell from a beachside cliff near Brighton in the UK. I know this, because that boy was the son of one of my musical heroes, Nick Cave. It was all over the press. Photos of Nick looking defeated and broken, the cliff, the flowers. At the time I was amazed at how strongly I felt the loss- even though I don’t know the Cave family, I had grown up listening to his music and attending his live performances, often in the front right by the stage, as he prowled, and growled and reached towards us, demanding eye contact. It was almost perverse how sad I felt, I thought I had no right to those feelings. How dare I.
I vividly remember at the time thinking, he’s 60 now, this is such a tragedy for not just him but his family, he won’t tour anymore. Maybe he’ll stop making music all together.
How wrong I was.
Nick Cave has always been a worker, his discipline is renowned. He has an office space rented near his home in Brighton in the UK, and every day he travels to his offer and works a 9-5 hour “job”. Creating, playing, testing, writing, working.
After the loss of his son, the rhythm, the routine, the discipline of that work became the healer. He encouraged his wife to throw herself into her own work to help her healing process as well.
It’s weird- we get asked, if you won a million dollars next week what would you do? And so many people instantly say they would quit their jobs. In the debate around the creation of a universal social wage, the argument against it is that society would just stop, that if nobody had to work, they wouldn’t.
Sure, if that universal wage was introduced there would be a period of stagnation and disruption, but I don’t believe it would last. Human beings are made to work. We need the work.
We define ourselves, our value, our worth by our work.
We contribute and share our skills through our work. We build communities and shape our society through our work. We heal ourselves and we heal others through the work we do.
Like a lot of you, I’m sure, I’m not good at doing “nothing”. I’m really not good at staying home for a holiday or a break, because I am constantly itching with a feeling that I need to be doing something productive.
When I’m stressed, unhappy or unsure- I clean. I de-clutter. I shred old documents. I dust the very hidden corners of my home and polish the windows till they shine. I start writing, and usually end up with a stack of half finished creations, to return to later. I put myself to work. When I lost both of my grandparents this past year within months of each other, my husband watched me clean and scrub and sort and de-clutter and continue to run my business as I processed and thought and worked and healed.
I’m guessing that if someone asked you tomorrow what you would do if you won a million dollars, you would probably answer “more of this”.
Because like me, like Nick Cave, doing this work means more to you than many others will ever understand.
(I wrote this a few weeks ago now, and left it sitting there, unpublished. So the dates are a bit out- Nick Cave toured Australia late January, 2017)