Posted On 14 Mar 2012
Because it’s election season, this is stupid season for talking about having a job.
The President says, “I’ve helped to create lots of them; if you re-elect me, I’ll create even more.” His challengers say, “The President hasn’t helped to create enough of them; if you elect me, I’ll create many more.”
There’s a host of philosophers in the last century and a half who have argued for various reasons that modernity’s heavy emphasis on having a job is crazy. I’m thinking of thinkers such as Marx, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Lame Deer.
Count me as someone deliberately walking in their footsteps.
“Who am I?” is the critical question.
What do people identify with? Typically and chiefly, they identify with their occupations, their economic roles. They think, “I am a doctor or a farmer or an engineer or a teacher or a shopkeeper” or whatever.
If you think that way, you identity with your job.
That really is crazy!
The question calls for an identification of who you are, yet you answer by specifying some of what you do.
No: Who you are is not what you do. You would still be you even if you never had one or permanently lost one you had. A job, therefore, is more like a possession than it is like an owner. Owners can gain or lose possessions, but owners cannot gain or lose being owners.
If you insist on identifying with something you do, at least make it your preferred work rather than your job. It’s important to distinguish doing work from having a job. You may, for example, devote yourself to mastering piano-playing, but, unless you are regularly paid for giving concerts, that doesn’t mean that your job is to play the piano.
Typically, having a job is spending your best daily hours doing something in a factory or office for which you are rewarded with money.
Sadly, having one becomes thought of as necessary, which is part of our communal money fetish. Be honest: are your thoughts preoccupied with money and possessions, with gaining more and losing less?
If so, count yourself as among those who, undoubtedly without intending it, are the living dead, those whose lives are devoid of meaning, those who have committed spiritual suicide.
If you are living in a dead world, either you won’t change or you will. If you won’t, there is no hope for you. If you will, resurrection is possible.
You are not just cut off from what is genuinely human, but also you are cut off from what is natural. What is natural includes the inorganic as well as the organic. In fact, the organic/inorganic distinction lies at the foundation of the problem.
We modern humans understand ourselves to be living in a dead world. In fact, we are. We are living abstract lives devoid of the concrete. We don’t have adventures or love affairs, for example; we read about them in books or watch them on television or in the movies.
We fail to realize the obvious fact that we are animals. Like them, we are parts of an interconnected whole.
Instead of seeing animals as our brothers and sisters, we degrade their environments, which kills them off, or change them to suit ourselves. We turn wolves into dogs! We eat the flesh of domesticated or artificial animals like Angus cattle instead of wild, noble buffalo!
We have the hubrus to think that Nature belongs to us instead of the other way around.
Eventually, we think, “All will go well if I just had a job” or “All will go well if I just had a better job.” No, it won’t.
What you are is not only more important than anything you have, it is infinitely valuable. Being trumps having.
I never expect to live long enough to see the day when politicians are talking what is really important.
Having a job is of no importance.
Identifying with Being, which is what you are, is of ultimate importance.
Recommended Resource: Jay Garfield’s “The Meaning of Life” (18 CD or DVD set from The Great Courses).