On Meaning and Work
Today is the start of a new week of . . . ughhh . . . work. I know there are a few of you out there who actually like going to work. You wake up in the morning, stretch, pray, meditate and then get a bit giddy thinking about what your day has in store. And good on you; there is a special need for you in this world.
And then there are the rest of us.
For many, the idea of not having to work has a certain appeal. There are ads on TV about winning the lottery and doing what we really love. Packing for a European trip instead of packing your lunch for another day at the office.
Or consider the high esteem that our society places on the ideal of retirement. It is something to strive for as that is when you will really begin to live your life. Think of the TV ads where the guy is walking out of a chaotic office with a look of serenity on his face and all his belongings in the cardboard box he is holding. He made it. He’s finally out of the rat race.
I don’t think any of us are immune to feeling this way from time to time. If you are honest with yourself, you will recognize that no matter how noble you might wish to appear, you identify just a little bit with the lottery winner or the retiree.
CLAC has a very different philosophy when it comes to work. We consider work as something that gives us meaning as humans. It provides a medium in which we can push ourselves and experience growth. It creates a sense of community and cultivates teamwork. It is, in fact, a gift given to us.
This idea about work is not just restricted to our organization though. I came across a description of what the modern meaning of life is from an anonymous writer on the Internet: “The modern meaning of life—that our deepest interest should find external expression in a form that others will find useful—and that will bring in sufficient funds for a bourgeois life.”
While many of us will likely think that there is perhaps a bit more to the meaning of life, I think it has a useful truth when it comes to thinking about work. We work for two things really—three if you want to count the bourgeois part.
The first is so that our deepest interests will come to be expressed in the world. The second is that others will find this expression useful. For many in our society, this idea is difficult to fathom. I think about the work that some of our members do that might be considered tedious.
But I don’t think that it has to be this way. I believe there is dignity in the less romanticized aspects of work. These are jobs and tasks that play a part in the second aspect—that they will be found useful by others. The goal of our work as a union is to help our members achieve the first aspect—that their deepest interests can be expressed.
In our vision statement, we say that CLAC will be a source of encouragement and inspiration to workers. This is one of our deepest interests. I think this interest finds expression in each part of CLAC, and there is no doubt that others find it useful.
So, the work week is under way. Let it be a good one, a meaningful one.