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.

The Lenten Close on the Eve of Easter

Lent is a somber season occurring the forty days before Easter.  It is one of Christianity’s most secret seasons (that is, un-commercialized), and in a way, the most private, since it is a time of reflection and confession and sacrifice.  Lent has been a more recent addition to my own Christian life as not every denomination chooses to observe this season and my own childhood church was one of them.

Yet, though I heard of Lent nine years ago, I didn’t participate in a visual and visceral way until this year.  There are many practices during this season which one could incorporate, but I chose to forgo eating desserts and sweet things, and to create artwork depicting two scenes from the life of Jesus.

Not eating desserts was easy for the first five days, and then… it wasn’t.  Mostly because we ended up with a cake in our freezer then!  But by the end of the weeks I’ve found myself endowed with more self-control than I had, and a deeper ability to take my eyes off annoying things which are present in my life, but not necessarily positive or proper to focus on.  That is, there are times in life when it is necessary to endure “thorns” in the side, but they mustn’t be dwelt upon.

Although I appreciate art, enjoy galleries, and frequently cite the need to see art in the everyday, my own art-life halted around age 10.  That was the last time I took a class.  So, in order to heighten my own senses of both spirituality and aesthetics I created a collage, and a painting.

This is a scene of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemene.

Jesus Transfigured on the Mount

This is the scene of Jesus transfigured on the Mount.

I have been refreshed and reminded during the past forty days of Jesus life and death but, I am excited for Sunday when we will all shout a joyful “He is Risen!”

Rereading Kurt Vonnegut

Interpreting Dystopian Literature in light of Christianity

In high school my favorite authors were Kurt Vonnegut and Orson Scott Card.  Science fiction and dystopian literature seemed edgy and profound at the time, and I’m still drawn to those categories.  I was fairly good as suspending my belief in reality, something my teacher impressed on my freshman English class saying it was necessary for reading Animal Farm.  He emphasized that we must overlook the implausibility of talking animals and he repeated this every day for about two weeks.  A bit of a priggish ninth grader I concluded that because I understood him the first time, I must be smart.   Also because I had read the book in only two days.  I suppose I was priggish and an overachiever.  This also bolstered my view that reading Vonnegut (as well as Heinlein, a little Asimov, Atwood, and Huxley) was my duty to my intelligence.

This year I’ve reread some Vonnegut – Welcome to the Monkey House, Man without a Country, and latest, DeadEye Dick.  I’d like to make it known that I wasn’t actually as smart as I perceived myself.  For all my knowledge that pigs couldn’t talk in Animal Farm, I also literally accepted the concept of Ice Nine in Cat’s Cradle, unaware that it might be a metaphor.  I often confused the man Vonnegut with his narrators, who spoke from the first person perspective.  A great deal of this confusion was due to the straightforward tone of the narrators as well.  I still operated under the assumption that people who could look you in the eye probably weren’t lying.  All of his narrators looked you in the eye, therefore they must represent Vonnegut.

So this time when I reread DeadEye Dick, I paused with a chuckle at the introduction in my (Dell, $3.95 US 1982) copy, a chapter full of disclosure, containing a few paragraphs explaining the main symbols.  Afterward I went on to read a tale of woe and sadness about a boy who commits an accidental murder in his childhood and doesn’t outlive the ignominy until the whole town is destroyed by a neutron bomb.  As Vonnegut himself said, “The crime he committed in childhood is all the bad things I have done.”

Freud would have had a field day with Rudy Waltz, protagonist.  Practically every psychological trauma he had could be chalked up to mother, “a cold and aggressively helpless old bat” or his father “a fraud.”   Psychologically though, I’m pretty sure it’s accurate to say that what we do, whether with intention or not, follows us around our whole lives – defines us, names us just like Rudy Waltz a.k.a. DeadEye Dick.

Why would a teenager like this book, me at 14 or 16 or whenever I read this for the first time?  Emotionally something must have resonated with me; after all at 16 I read emotionally first and foremost.   It’s somewhat easy to feel alone as a teenager, to feel as though already you’ve made a mess of things if you aren’t the most popular,smart, or athletic person. But Rudy has made a spectacular mess, a mess he’s always figuratively cleaning up after.   It’s nice to think there are people who have mucked it up worse than you have – that social comparison thing again.

But I’m not 16 anymore (thank God), and there’s more to reading comprehension than emotional identification with the main character.  There is understanding, interpreting, and evaluating. So I understand that Rudy committed a crime he can’t seem to walk away from, and that it defines him.  Rudy’s conclusion has then been to hold everyone at arm’s length, to become a neuter.  Neuters make no impact on anyone elses life; they live invisibly.  Although Rudy operates almost wholly under this paradigm, I can’t.  Although he holds that some people live a full life, and then die figuratively…

THE END

…meanwhile literally existing, I can’t accept this either.  Yet I can agree along with him, that simply by living, harm is done ecologically or relationally.  Yet we must strive toward good. I love life, and want to see good days, therefore I turn from evil and seek peace and pursue it.   The evaluation I make, that Rudy doesn’t, is that this pursuit of good is done through people and through community, and that it outweighs the bad being performed simultaneously.