Book Reflection: Shadow Work by Craig Lambert

Dream changed my life for real. Almost like having a baby changes your life forever. Almost. I have not yet found my usual rhythm and it feels like I’m still in a transitional period. Even something as normal as reading has become difficult for me. I usually devour books with ease, but it is taking me a long time to devour just one book now. But I just did. The book cover caught my eye as I was perusing the library shelf a few weeks back. Yep, it’s almost due, and I had postponed reading it until now. Shadow Work the unpaid, unseen jobs that fill your day by Craig Lambert.

I have to admit that the book cover enticed me because of ‘the unpaid, unseen jobs that fill your day’ as I’ve been feeling the effects of this in my life for years now. For example, whenever faced with technical difficulties on the computer while I’m doing work, rather than figuring it out myself, I always, always resort to yelling for my 15 year old son to figure it out and fix it for me. Where Ustaadh Adam and Ustaadh Nouman may yell, “Habeeb!!”, I’ll yell, “Hamzah!!” My reasoning has always been,

“My brain needs to work on something else.”

Figuring and fixing things require time and amidst all that I do, I don’t want to spend my time doing what I now know as shadow work. Ha! No really.

It’s a really intriguing and interesting read. Automation is replacing humans in this modern world of ours and while the advantages of that is obvious, the long term effects of it loom dangerously around the corner, as Lambert expounds on towards the end of the book.

Throughout the book, even from the beginning, after explaining the different manifestations of shadow work, such as bagging our own groceries, self check out at the groceries, libraries, getting and brewing our own coffee, making our own breakfasts at motels, pumping our own gas (he also gave a rundown of the history behind this which is welcome news to me), booking our own flights, recycling, even down to clearing our inboxes of spam, he describes the side effect of automation as people in silos. Automation eliminates human interaction bit by bit, to the point that people are isolated, which in turn can bring about really serious societal impacts such as the increasing shooting rampages we’ve had recently in the United States.

I love that he differentiates isolation from solitude; the former being imposed on a person and is usually negative and the latter usually being a result of one’s choice and usually positive. What struck me in the end is that it seems that if this goes on, it really will strip us of our humanity. And it made me think of the wisdom behind the prescription Allah has given us in our way of life. There is individual worship and there is communal worship.

Imagine now, or actually we don’t have to work too hard to imagine as it’s already in manifestation in some parts of the world, the robots taking over what used to be human jobs. The small talks and exchanges between customer and cashier or waiter is no longer, as robots replace these humans, thus saving companies money as they get rid of the intermediaries and deal directly with their customers instead. On a large scale, this impacts us, the society, sociologically and psychologically.

It’s then up to us to use our wisdom and human realization to bring about a balance between enjoying the positives automation has to offer and warding off the negatives it can bring about. Some people attack Islam by saying it’s an organized religion that limits freedom. In light of this impact of the rise of robots in our modern world, it occurred to me that having a higher power actually organize our way of life, keeps the balance of the world in check.

Because communal worship is an essential part of our religion, even if our daily life revolves around automated kiosks and computer screens, we most probably will (provided we abide by these religious prescriptions) be in close contact with our communities every prayer time. It’s in our religion to be approachable, and to visit each other, to keep in touch, to smile and spread salaam. It’s in our religion to help one another, to ease each other’s burdens, to work together, to be a community.

We as humans with limited foresight, may not foresee the long term effects of our innovations and inventions until it’s too late, but if we abide by the prescribed way of life by our Creator who is the only One deserving of our worship, we may still not foresee these negative long term effects, but we’ll at least be saved from them, in this world and in the hereafter.


Disclaimer : This is NOT a book review, rather a book reflection. 



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