[from my personal blog July 2010]
I came across the following passages while reading about biscuits, the story of producing biscuits to be exact in Alain De Botton's recent work titled: "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work." I find it quite interesting and true how he relates the topic and expresses his views towards the meaning of work.
When does a job feel meaningful? Whenever it allows us to generate delight or reduce suffering in others. Though we are often taught to think of ourselves as inherently selfish, the longing to act meaningfully in our work seems just as stubborn a part of our make-up as our our appetite for status or money. It is because we are meaning-focused animals rather than simply materialistic ones that we can reasonably contemplated surrendering security for a career helping to bring drinking water to rural Malawi or might quite a job in consumer goods for one in cardiac nursing aware that when it comes to improving the human conditions a well-controlled defibrillator has the edge over even the finest biscuit.
But we should be wary of restricting the idea of meaningful work too tightly, of focusing on the doctors, the nuns of Kolkata or the Old Masters. There can be less exalted ways to contribute to the furtherance of the collective good and it seems that making a perfectly formed stripey chocolate circle which helps fill an impatient stomach in the long morning hours between nine o'clock and noon may deserve its own secure, if microscopic, place in the pantheon of innovations designed to alleviate the burden of existences.
It made me think about my job and how it fits in the bigger picture of life or of the society. Are we or am I somewhat contributing in the microscopic ways for the advancement of culture or society? To be honestly, I have no idea, I am yet to grasp the ability to view things in this direction or perspective but I do want to attempt. I believe the wish to do so is already a big step to begin with. Perhaps minor things I do can make a huge difference in one way or the other.
A quick look around town, retailers and consumers continue to benefit from each other in a magical way with a common denominator we call money. Everyone works hard to earn a living, earn some extra bucks to spend, to satisfying their desire in whatever ways they can afford. I think it is a fair way and no objection to that at all. However, I am sure at some point in life, one would step back and ask oneself the question of "meaning in life / work." Unfortunately, I don't understand why such "reflection" usually happens during times of turmoil or times of turbulence? Such thoughts or ideas should be equally prevalent during boom times am I right?