Work, work, work, work, work...

"You better enjoy this summer, bud, because next year you're going to start working - this is your last summer being a kid." It was 1989, and I was 11 years old. My dad was preparing me for the real world and trying to get me mentally prepared for the years ahead when I would be mowing yards, mulching flower beds, and raking leaves for money in my neighborhood. After that, as he would say, "you are going to work the rest of your life."

That wasn't comforting to me, to say the least, but I tried to put his comment in my dad's context as a tough as nails road worker, and he always worked hard without much of a break. He was right though, it was inevitable; I was going to be working...probably until the day I died. Phew - that was a heavy
and depressing thought. But.  I'll tell you upfront that working isn't a bad thing. It's a
wonderful thing. Yes, I said wonderful! Let me explain.

Work as Part of Our Humanity

If you look at the animal kingdom, there are animals like cats that spend their whole life sleeping or lounging, a little bit of playing, and the other half running faster than anything and viciously hunting/killing things so they can eat. It's what they do. Then there are bees, ants, and beavers that live to create, and if you move their building materials, they go immediately to building it back up. There is something inside of them that needs to build. Then there are primates that have more relational
engagement, and they get regular exercise, more playing, building, and eating. They have little primitive communities that they function in. Isn't that fascinating? Where do you think humans fall on that spectrum? Some teenagers function like cats, some carpenters or engineers function like ants, and a lot of people parallel primates to a degree (other than just throwing poop and being hairy). That is not the whole truth, though; in fact, humans are very pronounced in their differences. 

Humans are designed for community, to have family and friends, to relax and play, and to have purpose. No other animal, regardless of their species or how close they mirror humans, has the need inside them that wants to matter and have meaning. That's what makes humans unique. All other living things function purely on nature and instinct. Humans have these too, but we have a whole other aspect that sets us apart. 

There are also no known species other than humans who have existential thinking or wrestle with their existence. In 1637, the French philosopher, and crafter of a sweet French mustache, Rene Descartes, famously made the proclamation, "I think; therefore, I am.” It was a simple statement upfront, but in reality, it was deeply profound. Descartes was responding to an age-old quandary first posed by the Greek philosopher Plato 2,000 years prior!   You may be most familiar with the modern version of this, found in movies like The Matrix and Inception, all asking the same question for the last 2,500 years: what if our reality isn't truly real, or what if we are living in some endless dream-like state? His declaration "I think; therefore, I am" was saying he cannot doubt his existence or its validity because if he can ask the question, then he exists. As humans, we are the only beings who ask the profound questions of existence like, "Who am I? How do I know life isn't just some dream? Do I matter?"  The fact that you can even ask such questions proves you are unique, you exist, you matter, and life is something to embrace rather than going through the motions. No animals think this way, nor do they need meaning. We do! 

A few thousand years ago, a book was written about the beginning of all things and the creation of humankind called Genesis, which is the first book of the Bible. The second chapter of this book describes the interaction between the Creator and the first person created. After creating human life, the creator took them and put them in the Garden of Eden to work in it and care for it.  Some of the oldest literature we have speaks about work and its intrinsic connection to our being. The idea of work should not be a negative concept for us; in fact, work is a beautiful thing! Work gives us purpose, a way to find satisfaction, exercise, mental stimulation, a venue for our creativity, and the list goes on. Work should not be seen as a way to serve corporate America; rather, it should be seen as a healthy and meaningful part of life.

How we view it will determine many things about what our lives look like. When you were
younger, you had different views on work than you have now.  As we get older, our perspectives (hopefully) change, and the reality of the world slowly hits us. This transition between
childhood and adulthood can be very bumpy and jarring. Put on your seatbelts – the rollercoaster is in motion.


Popular posts from this blog

Show Up Scrappy

Work Daydreams and Hearing Voices

The Audacity...