The investment counselor saw my job title, smiled, and showed me the ultimate respect. Yet, he saw my financial situation, and his smile turned upside down. “You are having a hard time with inflation?”

I arrive at my office and turn on the computer. The first person runs in and asks for something immediately. “Have you done this?” “We need this report.” “I need my grade.” “I want your understanding.” “You published another article?” “But can we get a better turnout?” ‘I’d better get to class,’ I think to myself.

I missed my wife and my kids… yesterday. I spent so much time with them, but our private connections had been interrupted. For the 7:15 a.m. volleyball practice, we leave the house at 6:55. Is there a game after school? We’ll get home at 6:30 p.m. “Oh, an evening basketball practice?” I’ll pick you up at 10:15 p.m. I run past my love coming in; we talk about what to pack for lunch. I finish the tasks of cleaning up a well-cooked meal that I couldn’t eat at the same time as the rest of them. I crash in bed next to my spouse, asleep before I am fully horizontal. And the alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m. It is winter now, so there is no light at home – before or after work. The natural light screams for my attention on my vacation – the 25-minute commute in the car from dropping one person off to arriving at a needy host of others.

There is no time to think, no time to be. The roles can be droll, with no time for the soul.

The social world around us continually asks for more. It offloads all its costs like Chinese water torture – a drip here, and a drip there, constantly eroding our defenses. There is no time for positive externalities, for perks (free-of-charge) that, in other places or ages, were part of the common life. I am surrounded by religious and civilized people who say, but no longer ask, “How are you?” Given our lots, it would be uncivil to care… I suppose.

What other sacrifice can I make to make myself more productive? Buy a better car? Fix the dishwasher? Shovel the walk again after the snow? Buy bags to transport my earthen food to take it back to the Earth? We need to vacuum. Let’s eat ribs! I could get up earlier… I need to Zoom on the road, and not touch my phone. Should we vote for a raise, and lay someone off? I guess I could take a second job.

For what?

My investment counselor smiles. I comment “Welcome to (this institution). Welcome to Edmonton.” He smiles again, if only as a distraction from the obvious incongruity of my simultaneous presence and the data on his computer screen. “I am so glad to have people I know well advising me on my money. I have been with this institution for 6 years,” I say to him. “I am so happy to have just met you. What brings you to Edmonton?”

“I came here because this was a better job.” Something’s gotta give. I need to make a different sacrifice.

 “You have a formidable reputation, doctor. But I find you so approachable.” I could see the tears well up in her eyes. “Thank you… I will listen to the incarnate,” she replied. It may have been the first human, the first common thing she heard in a long while.

We’ve got the direction wrong. A mass social structure sticks its fingers in our common life, a common life that isn’t so common.

2 thoughts on “Sacrifice for the Common Life

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