Saturday, March 10, 2007

You are not your job

Isn't it funny that one of the first things we ask a person when we meet them is, "What do you do?", as if knowing that will allow you to know the person better.

Are we really defined by what we do for a living? Is that who we are and nothing else?

In ancient Greece a person's profession wasn't as important as who he was in addition to that. No one was lucky enough to be able to do what they love for a living. There was no choice involved. You were born into a trade or initiated into it out of necessity. The first thing people asked was what family you belonged to or who your father was. "Who you were" was where you came from, not what work you did.

Socrates would say that work is only a means to an end and should not interfere with more rewarding philosophical pursuits. According to him the best situation was to be self-employed and not a slave to someone else's trade. It's no wonder that Socrates was known to have lived in relative poverty due to his lack of profession. He can't be accused of being practical because wandering around barefoot and annoying people with philosophical questions isn't going to put food in your stomach and a roof over your head. But he was happy and whatever he did made more of a difference than if he was clocking in from nine to five. Thousands of years later people are still discussing his philosophical ideas.

Personally, I am inclined to take the middle road. In today's world we need to have a skill or some valuable commodity that people are willing to pay good money for. If not you will just collect minimum wage for your time and labour at the check-out counter at the supermarket or loading goods behind the warehouse. That would be a sad waste of whatever talent you may have.

At the other end of the extreme there are people who have so much money that they don't know what to do with it. That is another worry in itself. Having a lot of money means that you have to keep an eye on it. However, is chasing the capitalist ideal with bulging stock portfolios and a hundred and one projects going on all at once really going to make you any happier? The stress of it all may take years off your life and the irony of it is that you may not live long enough to enjoy all the money you have made anyway.

I have to agree with what the character Tyler Durden said in the movie "Fight Club".

You are not your job.
You are not how much money you have in the bank.
You are not the car you drive.
You are not the contents of your wallet.
You are not your fucking khakis.
You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

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