Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Happiness Can Never Buy Money"

On one front of the culture wars, the counterculture has achieved great success.

Its attack on the Protestant Work Ethic has made “work” a four letter word. We have been taught that the meaning of life, and therefore real living lies in vacation, fun, recreation, leisure. We believe, almost instinctively, that work and life are directly opposed.

It follows logically that if living is the opposite of working, then working must be akin to dying.

We heard it in the agonized attacks against the Tiger Mom. How dare she work her children so hard? How will her daughters ever learn, Bill O'Reilly complained, how to have fun?

For a classical and Freudian attack on the work ethic, see Norman O. Brown’s book, Life Against Death.

This being the case, when we look at Elisa Doucette’s article, in Forbes-- of all places-- we knowingly nod assent at her title: “Are You Using Work as an Excuse to Avoid Life?”

Think about it. If this means anything, it means that when you are working you are not living. Or better, you are not really, really living.

When you are on the job you are not enjoying the thrill of lying around the swimming pool inhaling chlorine fumes and working on your skin cancer. When you are fulfilling a task that will provide you with a livelihood you are avoiding a walk in the park, a trip to the zoo, an afternoon at the theatre, a sultry Sunday morning with your beloved… you name it. All of those activities count as life, but work, the kind that allows you to enjoy those activities, is the opposite of living.

But, simply speaking, aren’t you alive, thinking and breathing when you are fulfilling a task or an obligation? Isn’t your mind functioning at its optimal form when you are writing the report, interviewing job candidates, overseeing the manufacturing operation or negotiating a deal?

Do you really believe that all of those activities deaden your soul?

Besides, as everyone knows, retiring from the world of work, thrusting oneself full time into the world of golf and tennis and walks on the beach is not only bad for your health. The research suggests that it is likely to kill you.

The enemies of the Protestant Work Ethic will not like it, but staying on the job will give you more years of productive LIFE.

Which brings us to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. After running the city for a dozen years Bloomberg surely deserved to slow down and smell the petunias. He earned the right to some productive leisure, some real living.

He could even have done some charity work.

He tried it, but he did not like it. He did not like staying at home, even with his partner Diana Taylor.

Yesterday he explained that he was going back to work at his eponymous company. In a phrase that will surely be denounced as grossly insensitive, to say nothing of sexist, he said:

… the alternative, in my case, is staying home and talking to Diana about feelings.

If that doesn't get you back to work, I don't know what would!

Of course, it was tongue-in-cheek. Yet, it shows that Bloomberg does not owe his extraordinary business success to therapy. In fact, it suggests that therapy will undermine your success.

But then, Bloomberg offered a piece of wisdom:

Just remember, happiness can never buy money.


Kentucky Packrat said...

My grandfather loved farming so much, his favorite vacation was to go to Kansas to tour feed lots. His favorite Sunday leisure activity was to drive on one of the bigger farms, checking the cattle.

My brother in law is finally thinking retirement, but not because he doesn't love his work. He is a big-equipment mechanic, and he is leaving only because he is getting "too old to get under bulldozers", as he put it. I suspect he'll find a part-time job at some parts store or mechanic's shop before a year is out.

Taking enjoyment out of one's work is a very Judeo-Christian idea. Solomon tells us enjoying our work is one of the only joys available to us in this world. Paul tells us to work like we're not just working for ourselves, but Him directly.

I told both of my kids that I was incredibly blessed to find a job that I love, and often do as a hobby. (I had to quit running my mail server and website out of the house a few years ago because it was getting too Busman's Holiday...). I told both of them to find a career where it didn't seem like work, and then figure out a way to make that career pay their way.

Anonymous said...

All their lives they had slaved at some kind of dull, heavy labor, behind desks and counters, in the fields and at tedious machines of all sorts, saving their pennies and dreaming of the leisure that would be theirs when they had enough. Finally that day came. They could draw a weekly income of ten or fifteen dollars. Where else should they go but California, the land of sunshine and oranges?

Once there, they discover that sunshine isn’t enough. They get tired of oranges, even of avocado pears and passion fruit. Nothing happens. They don’t know what to do with their time. They haven’t the mental equipment for leisure, the money nor the physical equipment for pleasure. Did they slave so long just to go to an occasional Iowa picnic? What else is there? They watch the waves come in at Venice. There wasn’t any ocean where most of them came from, but after you’ve seen one wave, you’ve seen them all. The same is true of the airplanes at Glendale. If only a plane would crash once in a while so that they could watch the passengers being consumed in a “holocaust of flame”, as the newspapers put it. But the planes never crash.

Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, war. This daily diet made sophisticates of them. The sun is a joke. Oranges can’t titillate their jaded palates. Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slacks minds and bodies. They have been cheated and betrayed. They have slaved and saved for nothing.

n.n said...

I would be happy with peace-of-mind. Unfortunately, it is progressively in short-supply. It seems that I was born near the tail-end of the Ouroboros cycle.