My $.02 on Gravity Payments 70K Minimum Salary

I first heard about this story in late July by reading this NY Times article. I also decided to read this article in Forbes, this one in Entrepreneur, and this one in Fistful of Talent.  Four articles is plenty for me to have an opinion.

Really, there are two pieces of this story that interest me.

Psychology – Price hears a psychology study and realizes his company can do better providing for people’s basic needs.  Fact: people who make 70K aren’t worrying about paying the basic bills.  “Price based the figure on a 2010 Princeton study he read, and an epiphany while on a hike with his friend who was struggling to pay her bills on an annual income of $40,000.” – From Entrepreneur.  Basically, just take a look at Maslow – employee’s have their basic needs taken care of and can then focus on other pieces like improving job performance, or saving, or creativity.

Maslow, Compensation, Benefits

Biblical Literacy – The man paid attention to this extremely disturbing biblical parable of the Workers in the Field that rocks me every time I read it.  Seriously, go read it.   The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t work like the USA works, and doesn’t work like we want it to work.  It won’t be “fair” they way we like to think of “fairness.”  Is Price a Christian?  Well, he grew up in a household of faith, but he isn’t anymore.  According to the NY Times –  “Mr. Price is no longer so religious, but the values and faith he grew up on are “in my DNA – It’s just something that’s part of me.”

Parable of the Workers

So, this crazy decision made his employees obviously uncomfortable.  No, it wasn’t fair within his company, and he definitely should have consulted other people on his decision.  It’s demoralizing to people who only got a slight salary increase for their already higher paying positions.  After all “ Giving large raises to lower paid, lower contributing employees may be well intentioned, but unless it’s paired with equitable raises for higher contributing employees, it is bound to cause dissatisfaction and turnover.” (As Forbes points out: Equity Theory!)  I can easily see other psychology principles coming into play pretty soon, like the fact that we easily get accustomed to the new normal – hello Hedonic Treadmill!

But, quite a lot of what I see in this is that we (journalists? Americans? pundits? fellow employees) continue to confuse the idea of labor value with personal worth, and at the same time, pretend that how much we earn shouldn’t/doesn’t affect how we see each other.

The change forced the employees to reckon with the way they judge their own worth and the way they judge the worth of other employees.  Suddenly, they’re all on the same “worth” scale, and so they cry foul, they see it as an attack on their personal worth.  If I’m suddenly making as much as the admin, despite my different duties and education, am I worth what I think I am?  Serious ego blow.  I think this is also a story about identity and the way we value people.

That, and the obvious workplace connection, is what makes me keep thinking about this story.   The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives us plenty of ways and formulas to help calculate salaries and benefits, but they don’t touch on how we as humans make meaning from that data and determine worth.  A lot of us take what the BLS says about labor value, and the emphasis on making money and spending money and determine that a salary is equivalent to their personal worth.  All you do is answer phones, that’s not worthwhile, you’re not worth a wage like that.  That’s not even close to true. My labor is worth a dollar amount, but my worth as a person is priceless.

What I think Price did is to try and make that discrepancy between worth and value a little smaller.  His method was flawed, imperfect and is causing waves, but I definitely applaud him for a radical decision and doing something.

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Going beyond transactional relationships

It is surprisingly, achingly, difficult to push past the transactional in our relationships, and into the transcendent. Yet we must try.

Everyone craves connection.

But so often we exist on the level of the transactional.

What is going on with you?

How was your weekend? 

I want to move into the level of transcendent relationships.  What is beyond my normal experiences.

How are you. Today? Right Now?
It is surprisingly, achingly, difficult to push past the transactional in our relationships, and into the transcendent.  After all, the transactional is a lot of what we do: sleep, eat, wake, talk, do.

There is beauty in the transactional, I won’t lie to you.  I want to tell my friends how fun my weekend was, the birthday parties, the beaches.  I want to tell the story of how Ethan got stuck on a playground in a playhouse window, like a little monkey, screaming “Mama!  Save me!”

But it’s death to leave our relationships in the transactional level, where all of life is a calendar of activities.  Where you are stuck looking at the world from the perspective of causality.  This happened and this resulted, plain and simple.

I want to live in a world where I talk about the birthday parties, but also the wisdom we’ve gained getting older. I want to talk about the absurdity of parenting, but also the effort I’m putting in trying to shape a moral human being, one who cares about his friends.  I want transcendent relationships, rising above the clouds of the mundane.
I want to be able to say “I’m [physically] tired because I work now.”   But I do myself a disservice if I don’t also talk about the possibility that I may be existentially tired because I have not learned how to nurture my soul during the soul-sucking 10hr/week  commute.  I truly believe the answer to tired problem goes beyond “Go to bed earlier.”

I still cannot believe how difficult it is to live in the transcendent, despite the time I spent reflecting in worship at a church service every week, the time I spend journalling, and the blog posts I love reading on lunch breaks about the more of life. After all, this is a world where I may only see true friends once or twice a week, and possibly only for an hour or two at a time, it is hard to get beyond the transactional.

If it’s hard with old friendships, it’s triply hard with the new friendships, where you need to joyfully spend the time in those early conversations with transactional conversation such as “Where do you live,” “What are your hobbies?”

This isn’t a blog post with a tidy solution at the end – I wish it was. For all of my desires to live beyond the everyday, to read about the best questions to draw out friends and family, and my active attempts to practice it, I still catch myself going days without looking under the surface of my experiences, or prying the lid off glib responses of “good” to “how was your day.”

But I try.


If you liked this reflection, you will also enjoy – A midsummer reflection on spiritual gifts, and advice for the inbetween times.

Age-Blind, Experience Rich.

I was obsessed with my RA in college.  She was equal parts friendly and sarcastic,  her humor was at times sophisticated and other times involved a lot of poop jokes.   She had a phobia of feet, and the fact that I can remember this twelve years later, but hardly any of my freshman year classes, amuses me.  I lived on her floor for 2.5 years, only spending one semester in off-campus housing.  Because I ended up graduating a year early, we were in the same graduating class.  Still, she seemed much older and wiser, and I looked up to her.

In much the same way, I met plenty of other people who were a year, maybe two, ahead of me at college, and they all seemed laden with knowledge I would never acquire, always scrambling to catch up to their achievements.

Then I graduated, and suddenly the artificial construct of grades fell away completely within a few short years.  In the closeness of the North Shore I met plenty of people who had also gone to Gordon College, had been a few years ahead of me, behind me and we hadn’t managed to meet during our time on campus.  I felt that we were all in this together, all the same age, all sharing a similar past experience.

I also started making plenty of non-Gordon friends, some who were 4 or 5 years older than I, even 10. Others were 3 or 4 years younger.  Age started to blur even more as other significant milestones took their place – marriage, baby making, house buying, promotions, second degrees, business starting.  The type of things that happen to different people, at different times.

MSGraduation

Still, I sometimes run into those people I had classes with who were, like my RA, seemingly older and wiser during our college years.  The senior in the lit class, when I was only a sophomore.  It will come as a shock that they were often only six months, maybe a year older than I was, that in fact, we were the same age.   I find myself still somehow mentally believing in their extra wisdom.  Turning to them for advice, checking my assumptions against their vast experience.

The older I get, the more time I spend making new friends, and then the more I find myself to be strengthening ties with wise and mentoring people, regardless of their actual, or perceived ages.  I’ve also been happy to find myself able to be the “wise” friend some of the time too, although this role still scares me.  More and more, I want to become like a woman I know who someone described as “age-blind.” Her friend’s ages span decades on either side of her own.

There is wisdom to be found in people of all ages, whether six months older than me, or sixteen years, or sixty.  So I hope, pray, that I’ll be able to find it.

Robots, Restructuring, and Finding Rest.

imustkillalloftherobots via www.explodingdog.com

A few weeks ago I was reading another doom and gloom article in TIME about how robots and automatization are taking over the world, people are losing jobs, and the only skills worth pursuing are those that involve creative thought or highly original movements (like human haircutting.)

I keep hearing how these decades-to-come may be called the Great Restructuring.

My first reaction when I read these articles is –

AHHHH I just spent the last 10 years of my life figuring out what I want to do, what if in 5 years I have to start this process again… from scratch!!  I better start hoarding cash and skills so I can beat everyone else in the job race!

Or – I am getting older and things are not getting better.  What if I’m in my late fifties and s*** really hits the fan?

Obviously – these are very healthy reactions.

Not.

As usual, I’m then laying on the couch moaning about living in a basement forever, or scavenging for in dumpsters for food that the robots unknowingly discard when my husband offers a little comfort.  Usually something scholarly; insight from a different angle.

Such as this (paraphrase) –

“You know – Marx used to dream about the day when the workers would only have 20 hour work weeks and be able to pursue their own interests.  It all comes down to whether they are able to support themselves, and are happily ‘unemployed’ or destitute.”

Oh.

Yeah.

Aren’t we all striving for an endless weekend?  That’s what these books about four hour workweeks are… right?

I haven’t made it my study to know all the detailed logic of how the robot economy will be structured, or how workers will get fed, or what money will look like, or how it will be distributed.  My gut instinct is not good (see above). I don’t want to ignore these questions especially because the pertain to issues of social justice and equality.

But one thing I do spend considerable time reading and researching and (as a stay at home mom) participating in is leisure time.  Especially (re: stay at home mom) leisure time without a lot of a cash.

If it’s true that in the future we will all have considerably more “disposable time” on our hands, which may, unfortunately, come in the form of unemployment, then collectively we must get better at educating each other, our children, and our society on how to spend that time and ultimately, how to save (or redeem) that time for both restful and creative use.  This will be use of time that ultimately should restore our minds and souls, particularly when we may be without roles we’ve counted on in the past – ie: those jobs and the distinctions of certain titles.

From a Christian perspective – it is part of our very nature to act as creators. Men and women are made in the image, after all, of their Creator.  In the image of God, they create.

From a psychological perspective (re: Maslow, Csizkzentmihalyi) people seek to become self-fulfilled, to achieve mastery, to be creative, to exist in a state of “flow.”  A place where they recognize that they are being optimally engaged in a process that stretches, teaches, and uses their abilities, then allows them to extend them.

Neither or these perspectives is fulfilled by the current ideal American leisure as protrayed in the popular media – shopping for yet another item of clothing – indulging in a mindless moral morass of reality television,* vacationing in Cancun.   It is precisely because of that word “mindless” that these activities are not suited toward expanded hours of leisure.  To resign ourselves to the majority of our lives attempting to live on the fruits of the creativity of others is to sink our own brains and bodies into slime.

(*Can you mindfully watch television?  Yes – I believe that you can.  I just don’t believe that you can mindfully watch 35 hours of television a week.  Any more than I believe you can mindfully eat 6000 calories a day, or mindfully accrue $10,000 of credit card debt. )

But where have we been instructed in how to creatively and uniquely pursue leisure? Many of our opportunities have been taken away from us by the cheap convenience of mass produced goods (who needs to create clothes anymore?), dwindling budgets (another story about cutting art class? How cliche) or too much time commuting to enjoy nature.

Furthermore, in our leisure time we are often sucked into the shrill shrieks of what claim to be urgent and important information we can’t ignore.  5 Ways to Avoid Obsolescence!  6 New Ways to Make More Money! 10 Things You need to Do before Tonight!  How can we pursue growth activities if we must hurry hurry hurry to acquire all of our knowledge.

This is something of an oxymoron. Hurry up and Become Wise.
But I digress.

Let me return to my original question – Where can we look for insight into how to regain creative hobbies, true rest, and searching for the meaning of life. I am interested in finding that balance between rest and creativity, as well as mindful growth and discovery.

So far, I’ve begun to look for different answers in past writers about self knowledge and current writers who advocate for rest and a return to a weekly Sabbath.  In the past, I’ve also tried to decrease the amount of time I spend doing mindless things – placing a priority on prioritizing – especially my core values, and knowing what those are.

What are your thought?

Common Misconceptions about Simplicity

Simplicity

Simplicity can be quite complicated.

I realized this when a friend asked me for some of my thoughts about it during the Lenten season this past March.  (Simplicity is one of the outward Spiritual Disciplines practiced by Christians – but it can certainly apply to others as well.  However, in this conversation, I’m rooting discussion in my faith tradition.)  I started to write him a facebook message, but stopped after it stretched on for over twelve paragraphs. I can sum up what I think Simplicity is in one sentence –

Simplicity is a life stripped of excess; excess that separates us from what really mattersIn the context of Christianity, it’s easy to define what really matters – Loving God. Loving People.

But the practical business of partaking in this weeding process can be thorny.  First off, what is a weed?  Or rather, how do we recognize simplicity when we see it?

So that I better recognize what simplicity is – I started out by identifying 5 things simplicity isn’t.

Simplicity doesn’t mean Easy.

The first thing I determined was that simplicity doesn’t mean taking the easiest route.  It is always easier to do things the way they have always been done, to not question our decisions, our choices..  It is always simple to do what is most convenient – but that does not mean it will allow us to excise excess.  It is always simple to do what everyone else is doing, but does that mean we should all be doing it?

Simplicity is not always Cheap.

If simplicity ultimately involves loving other people then in good conscience it is difficult to participate in practices that enslave other people.  Because of the convoluted and global practices of trade these days – unfortunately much, but not all, of the time it is necessary to purchase something that has been made by slaves.  One of the biggest practices of simplicity involves the work of discovering how to avoid these things – and purchase items which reflect just labor.  This is usually more expensive than cheaper alternatives.

Simplicity involves Work.

One element of simplicity is investigating alternatives to current practices.  The mental work to decide to live simply is the first step, and hard enough.  Beyond that it’s hard to rethink habits, and to try new practices.  It’s always work to discover goods that are ethically made and sourced.  Furthermore, it is mental work to say no to upgrading your goods, and sometimes forgoing labor-saving devices in the practice of simplicity.  Relevant Magazine presents one of the biggest labor saving devices which is slowly eroding the practice of simplicity and silence.

Simplicity is not the same thing as Minimalism, or Sustainability.

Sometimes I get really into all the similarities between Simplicity and Sustainable living – forgoing upgraded technology, finding locally sourced vegetables, home cooked meals, thrifted clothing, one car lifestyle. I want to be able to say that these two things are the same – and there is some crossover – but they aren’t the same – because the Discipline of Simplicity is, again, rooted in faith.

The definition of sustainability is to be sure that the current generation doesn’t compromise the ability of future generations to live on the earth.  Sustainability’s goal is that people will have enough resources to continue indefinite life on this planet.  Simplicity is ultimately not about resources or goods at all, and Christian simplicity is not about this planet primarily – but about God, and People.

Simplicity is not just a state of mind.

I like what Richard Foster*, author of Freedom of Simplicity, writes –  “The Christian discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style.”  Although I can think about simplicity all day long, if I don’t change my habits it is nothing but talk, and nothing has been gained. Simplicity must be but into practice with small choices implemented one after the other.

What do you think about Simplicity – or have you even thought about it before?

*I am very indebted to Foster’s thoughts on Simplicity.  I cannot recommend Foster’s book highly enough.  His book was the first I read on the topic, and I think it is the best.

You might also like this post: About how to keep Holidays Simple by focusing on People.

Celebrating 25 Years of Christianity

25 Years of ChristianityA brief recount of the last 25 years of my Christian life.

My mother told me I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was 3.  I can’t remember this incipient moment of faith – so I’ll just imagine that it was marked by the sound of trumpets in heaven.  Since those first wobbling days of faith I’ve been able to participate in so much of what is part of the evangelical subculture of the last 25 years in America.  VBS (Vacation Bible School), Missionettes (the Pentecostal’s version of Girl Scouts), Youth Groups, Missions Trips, listening to DC Talk and other Christian bands, Purity Vows, Christian Summer camp, Church hopping, the Emergent movement, Christian college, having a faith crisis… and the list goes on.

My own relationship (with Jesus, with Christianity) has gone through at least 3 distinct eras – each had unique traits, and although there was no cut and dried transition.

Music and Memorization:

My first days of faith were spent in memorizing scripture, at home, at private school, and at church.  Sunday School mornings I did crafts such as glue rocks together to mimic the cairns placed by the Israelites on the floor of the Red Sea.  I sang praise choruses and serenaded the stars above my front porch with my own renditions of “Jesus loves me” and the hymn “There is power in the blood.”

Christian Identity, Group Participation

By the time I was a sophomore in high school I had attended five different churches, half a dozen youth group retreats, committed and recommitted to reading the Bible daily and been part of several awkward “See you at the Pole” attempts.  My historical understanding of Christianity was excellent (if I do say so myself).  As a teenager, I was constantly wrestling with questions of identity like What am I good at? How can I fit in? What makes me unique?  Because of this, my Christian life at this point involved a lot of clinging to verses about being loved and accepted.  I also needed the security of other Christians, such as youth groups and Bible study to bolster me.  I read the Bible on my own, and attended church, and had also begun to make the first few steps toward interpreting my own faith, rather than accepting others interpretations.

Knowledge and Interpretation.

Attending a Christian college was my first introduction to different modes of thinking about and wrestling with Christianity – my first introduction to ways of attempting to intersect the Bible and Jesus with literally everything there is in the world.  My first introduction to the quote “All truth is God’s truth” and the myriad of arguments for and against that statement, and al the qualifiers that go along with it. My first introductions to Christian feminists, Social Justice Advocates, Theistic Evolutionists and more.  There were years of questioning What is Truth?, and listening to others answer the same question.

Post college I began reading Christian books other than the Bible because I chose to, not because they had been assigned. A huge turning point for me, and Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline” and “Simplicity,” the late Dallas Willard’s “Renovation of the Heart” and NT Wrights “Surprised by Hope” have all been fairly groundbreaking for me, increasing both my knowledge and love of God.  I also began thinking of my faith as belonging to a larger community – and also the necessity of participation.

My faith has informed my values and worldview – but at the same time my experiences and interests have needed to be interpreted in light of this faith as well.  These two things have worked together to make me the Christian that I am currently.

The next 25 years?

I am constantly reminded by other bloggers and books that life is a narrative and people re-frame our stories in light of our current self-conception and the zeitgeist of our era.  However, Christians are unique in that they have been grafted onto a centuries old story that starts with Creation.  Christian stories and narratives are part of something larger, much larger.

On a more practical level, sometimes we tell our stories in terms of our emotions, our friendships, our actions.  We’re the center of the story.  Sometimes we look to tell our story to see how certain themes run through them – I think in telling my story today, I was attempting to make sense of the unfolding cognitive realizations of Christianity.  The movement from simple songs to complex theological concepts.  In truth, if we call ourselves Christians, then we aren’t really the center of our story – Christ is.  As a friend of mine once said in regard to Christians: “Everyone should be able to write an autobiography where Jesus is the main character.”

How do you tell your life story? Your Christian journey?  What do you choose to emphasize each time?

Hey! Check this out! I was interviewed over at TerraBluTeams!

terrabluteams

Talking Trash with Beth*

I met Beth last week at Zumi’s, a lively café in Ipswich, MA., owned by sustainable practitioner, Umesh. Beth, who lives in Salem, was one of our first website subscriber’s a year ago, when we founded TerraBluTeams.org.

In her late twenties, a wife, mother and graduate student, Beth proclaims herself a sustainability “beginner” because her upbringing was not very “eco-conscious”. Beth’s passion for a sustainable lifestyle was inspired by her first trip at age 21 after graduation from Gordon College to “wwoof”. This adventure allows volunteers a hands-on opportunity to live/work on an organic farm, either in the USA or abroad.

It was Beth’s first trip alone, outside the USA, to a strange land to meet new people and learn about sustainable living. When Beth arrived in New Zealand at her chosen organic farm, four hours outside Auckland, she was immediately put…

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