Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble. Reading those turgid philosophers here in these remote stone buildings may not get you a job, but if those books have forced you to ask yourself questions about what makes life truthful, purposeful, meaningful, and redeeming, you have the Swiss Army Knife of mental tools, and it’s going to come in handy all the time.
Somehow, until I saw Maria Popova’s link, there had been a Watterson-commencement-speech-shaped hole in my experience of which I had been unaware. Glad that’s fixed now.
May 22, 2013 @ 3:48 pm
Why is "never be satisfied" a character trait in the first place? I think things like storing an abundance of food for the winter gained the status of moral virtue – our "work ethic" – created some kick-ass wealth, and resulted in the world being dominated by people who are unhappy all the time.
May 23, 2013 @ 5:44 pm
Contrast this with the turgid, hectoring plattitudes of Hope N' Change at Moorehouse.
Why do people claim he is a great speaker. He is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Or like listening to a lecture from the Assistant Vice Principle for Discipline.
May 25, 2013 @ 4:44 pm
Maybe. But when my sister's Viking woman partner works ten hours, comes home and puts some laundry on, goes out and does yard work and any other chores – every day – I can't help but try to figure out why some people are like that. It's way more common among northern European sorts.
May 25, 2013 @ 12:46 pm
Noel sounds like he's been reading some Max Weber.
May 25, 2013 @ 11:21 pm
I mean, seriously, that was Weber's famous argument, that Calvinism created the Protestant work ethic, which made work a virtue for its own sake, independent of necessity. So yeah, those poor guilt-ridden Northern Yurpeans.
May 28, 2013 @ 2:02 pm
But that's just one example of what I'm talking about. Cultural traits like the "ant" vs the "grasshopper", can become so deeply ingrained that they propagate through centuries. Shame is often a factor, but not the only one: my sister-in-law likes to be busy and can't stand to leave anything undone. I'm saying it's because she's German, not Puritan. Her ancestors died if they did not get enough done. And there are others who historically have had an extraordinary work ethic: the Jews and Japanese come to mind.
May 30, 2013 @ 11:47 pm
Nimm meine Leute nicht auf den Arm, Noel!
Besides, their work week is shorter than the Greeks'.