A few weeks ago I finished reading George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”. Published in 1945, this timeless novel tells a tale about a group of overworked farm animals who rise up and rebel against the only establishment they have ever known, their farmer. In overthrowing the demands and obligations of the farmer they attempt to create a “worker’s paradise” where all animals are equal. Trouble eventually ensues, leading to a riveting tale that I flew through, page after page.
Animal Farm reflects the events leading up to the Russian revolution of 1917 and into the early Stalin era. It’s an allegorical novel that helps to simplify and allow the reader to approach the material in a very unique way. As the story evolves, the ruling animals award themselves more and more luxuries, slowly corrupting the system. Simply put – power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
While working my way though the book I became aware of the underlying theme that drove the farm: hard, long, continual labour today would be rewarded tomorrow through the perks of retirement.
Throughout the novel, Orwell uses the animals to figuratively represent a number of the issues with communist society. One of the older horses in the novel, after having been worked to physical exhaustion reflected on his plans to retire.
“If Boxer made a good recovery, he might expect to live another three years, and he looked forward to the peaceful days that he would spend in the corner of the big pasture. It would be the first time that he had had leisure to study and improve his mind.”
Sadly, in the end Boxer was unable to enjoy his old age and better himself, as had been his dream for retirement.
Much like Boxer, the rest of the animals on the farm were run down, overworked, and exhausted. They were never given time to relax or to focus on either own interests and passions. Unfortunately, North American society operates in a similar fashion, overworked and with an alarming lack of personal time. As we look around we see people who are so engulfed in their work that they forget to take time for themselves and their families.
In today’s day and age people don’t stop to focus on themselves enough. We’ve all heard the old adage: it’s important to “pay yourself first”. I argue that most people pay themselves first in the literal sense but do not reflect upon the figurative sense: time. Before the start of each week you should sit down and designate time for yourself: time that will allow you an opportunity to focus on the things which matter to you. Use this time to do something that will make you happy and perhaps even make you a better person. The truth is: we all need time for ourselves. Everyone needs that time in their week to focus on what really matters to them, without the intruding white noise of the world. This critical time needs to be for you.
Hal Urban, in his amazing book, Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter, lays out 20 things that successful people do. Early on in the book he describes a situation where business executives had compromised everything for corporate success. He talks about how they had lost themselves in the pursuit of the “almighty dollar”. Research was done into their overall outlook and attitude. Urban wrote: “Almost half of them said that despite years spent striving to achieve their financial goals, their lives seemed ‘empty and meaningless’”. He goes on to mention that 68% of the senior executives interviewed said they had neglected their family lives to purse professional goals.
Not only did these seemingly successful people feel empty, they also freely admitted to missing out on important time with their families. There is a valuable lesson to be learned here. Corporate success, with all its power and money, can’t do two things. It cannot rewind the clock and it cannot bring meaning to your life. Once you start running, it’s hard to slow yourself down. In the case of Boxer by the time he finally came to rest he was irrevocably burned out. His blind dedication to work not only dominated his past but also robbed him of his future. Don’t be a Boxer, don’t ever allow yourself to compromise your today for the promises of tomorrow.