Why you can’t work like a robot

Taylor Foreman
3 min readOct 1, 2022

Meaning is something a robot can’t imagine.

Photo by Maximalfocus on Unsplash

My Roomba has a difficult time getting over the threshold in my hallway.

The thing will bang its little robot nose against the slight-too-high threshold for an hour before it either makes it or gives up and heads back to the dock.

Why does this thing have so much energy to ram a threshold, but I sometimes can’t summon the energy to move my little fingers around to type on a keyboard?

To many online self-help gurus, it’s just because I’m not disciplined enough.

But I think my resistance to doing the work is the heart of what it means to be human. I’m not a robot. I notice when my efforts seem futile. That’s good.

But I can’t just stop there. I have to figure out why I don’t want to do the work. That, I find, gets me to the deepest questions in my life. Why am I writing? Who am I trying to serve? What matters to me?

Until I have at least functional answers to those questions, I will stare at a threshold I can’t cross: the blank white page.

Ask yourself why you don’t want to do it

One man is struggling with a stone. He’s trying to pull it through the mud, cursing, and when you ask him what he’s doing, he says, “Trying to move this goddamn rock!”

Another man is doing the same thing, but he’s smiling. When you ask him what he’s doing, he says, “Building a cathedral!”

Unlike the Roomba, humans have motivational structures that are so deep they don’t just stop with what you believe — they go all the way down into your deep biology. Everything you do, if you ask “why” long enough, gets to your “religion.” By religion, I just mean the deepest beliefs. The answers you have to those questions are always a little “strange.” And by strange, I mean the way consciousness is strange when you’re doing psychedelics — if you’ve had that experience.

If I don’t believe my writing “matters” in some cosmic sense, my biological energy is conflicted. Part of me will not want to “work,” making me feel tired, bored, anxious, or distracted.

You know this is true — especially if you’ve felt the opposite: when your entire…

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Taylor Foreman

Essays bridging mythic meaning and the modern world. Click here to have them appear in your inbox some Saturday mornings --> https://www.taylorforeman.com/