Could we now be entering the age of meaningful work? Goodness, that’d be nice huh.
I mean what the greed and excess has done to our nation, well, we will really have no idea as to the tally of all this mess for quite some time. But if there is a silver lining to this quite dark cloud, might it be that people will stop chasing mere money as their ideal professional aim and instead seek personal meaning in their work? Or at least look at the idea of meaningfulness as a supremely important ingredient to their choice of career.
Personally, meaningfulness was the number one factor for me in determining what I would ultimately do. But I come from a family of lawyers and my dad, though a wicked smart barrister, never really liked the job all that much — so while my grandmother glowed with the idea of one day their being a Sitomer, Sitomer and Sitomer law firm (there was a Sitomer and Sitomer firm already), my dad let me know that doing what really wound my clock was much more important than chasing the illusive cash promised by high white collar career choices and the vacuous promise of offices with nice leather chairs.
My dad had many faults but on this one he was spot on. I had permission to choose, to go where the gravity pulled me and not be tempted by the siren call of material benefits holding more worth than personal fulfillment.
So I became a teacher and a writer. Heck, I always clicked with academics, helping people out made me feel good and I kinda found I had a knack working with, and writing for, kids. The idea that there’s some sort of oath of poverty aspect to our profession kinda rankles me but I also know that when I chat with high end lawyers, real estate richies or whatever, they are kinda rankled by the lack of personal meaning they find in their work. The money fulfills them but not to the top and their souls so, so often cry for “more to this in life, no?”
I believe people need to give. It’s woven into our DNA and quite possibly, our national lack of focus on giving these past few decades (we are a nation of rapacious takers in so, so many ways doing for ourselves first and foremost — might I cite Wall Street, Enron, Wal-Mart, Big Oil, etc…) might prove to be a calamity with a spectacular silver lining.
The real stimulus of the stimulus package might be to stimulate people to, as Joseph Campbell once said, “Follow their passion“.
Goodness knows that as a teacher, I try to pass this lesson on to my own students. Be careful what you wish for because if you only chase the money that might be all you end up with. For a kid hypnotized by the bling-bling of life, it’s a tough sell. (Especially, when you work with kids in poverty.) But planting the seed might very well be good enough. I mean I didn’t become a teacher right out of college — I spent years traveling, failing as a writer, drifting and so on. In many ways I was a late bloomer.
But eventually the seed that was once planted saw the light. Following what really drives me has made all the difference to my life.
And I know I am not alone. After all, if you are reading this right now, in some way you are most probably cut from the same philosophical cloth.
Teaching might not balloon your bank account but it can certainly balloon the positive stuff of your soul. And really, who doesn’t like balloons?