A Living, Not a Life

4535868510_a1bdaf6707What is work? According to the dictionary: activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something; job; employment; a trade, profession; labor, task, or duty that is one’s accustomed means of livelihood.

Yep. That’s where I will be heading shortly this morning: off to work to earn my paycheck. But later this year I will leave the profession I have long grown tired of and jump off into the unknown. Each thought of doing more of I really want to do with less money, I grow increasingly excited. Fifteen years ago I would have thought that was craziness. Today I know the scorecard of life is NOT about money, what job is held nor how much one works, but instead about how much one lives.

We’re ambivalent about work because in our capitalist system it means work-for-pay (wage-labor), not for its own sake. It is what philosophers call an instrumental good, something valuable not in itself but for what we can use it to achieve. For most of us, a paying job is still utterly essential — as masses of unemployed people know all too well. But in our economic system, most of us inevitably see our work as a means to something else: it makes a living, but it doesn’t make a life. Gary Gutting, New York Times

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway. Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself. Adrian Tan

When I weigh things out I don’t believe I wasted the majority of my life working. The way forward was blessed with a rewarding profession that enhanced my existence to a great degree. Over time though, it became just a job; something I did because I thought I was required to do. There were true responsibilities of paying bills, saving, helping my son get the education he wanted and supporting a couple of ex-wives. Those are behind me.

Eventually I will need to generate income to augment my savings, but what I do will be something I truly want to do that does not rob me of too much time. What a rare advantage to have the room to sort out what that might be (actually I believe if I keep an open mind and my awareness sharp it will appear in my path). I’m approaching a new personal frontier that is both stimulating and forbidding. It’s the new and uncertain feelings that I am the most grateful for. They make me feel fully alive!

Work without love is slavery.
Mother Teresa