The Joy of Losing Yourself
You might not always be able to find a job that you enjoy so much that you disappear into it. But finding something that makes you so comfortable that doing it fills your whole consciousness can be really gratifying and productive
By André van Heerden, Communications Director
A great joy of mine is watching my youngest daughter disappear into a make-believe world. One moment she’s in our living world and arranging Playmobil, or toy cars, or toy dragons, and the next moment she’s inhabited whatever she’s playing with and entered a new world.
She speaks in different voices. There’s emotion, conflict, excitement, and caring. Often, she plays these same games with friends who live next door. And afterward, I’m always amazed at how detailed and intricate some of the parts of their imagined world are. Leaves and berries and rocks and sticks have been rearranged to make homes, vehicles, food and medicine.
There’s real thought that’s gone into all of it, and when it’s time for a friend to go home, we’ve often heard, “Don’t do anything more! I want to come back right to where we are!” This is even after an entire afternoon of playing!
I’ve seen the same sort of complete immersion when one of my older daughters is illustrating characters or writing stories. And I’m sure many parents of teenage boys have noticed how engrossed they can become with video games.
I’ve seen this at work as well. Sometimes, it’s while someone is writing or editing an article for a newsletter or the Guide. Sometimes, it’s while someone is designing an infographic or website. Sometimes it’s even while someone is focussed on folding and binding collective agreements, one after another, up to stacks of hundreds.
We’re all different with different interests, but finding something to do that makes you so comfortable that doing it fills your whole consciousness can be really gratifying and productive.
Jiro Ono, a world famous sushi chef, said, “You must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work . . . you must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret to success.”
And composer and artist John Cage said that “when you start working, everybody is in your studio—the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas—all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you are lucky, even you leave.”
You might not always be able to find a job that you enjoy so much that you disappear into it. But hopefully you can find parts of whatever task you’re doing to really appreciate it and want to do better and more of it.
It doesn’t have to be something big or complicated or significant. It’s amazing that Chef Jiro Ono doesn’t work at a big fancy restaurant but only at a 10-seat place located in a subway station!
As with many things in life, you get out of something what you put into it. And if you’re fortunate enough to find something to put our whole presence into, you’re sure to reap some benefits from that.