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Value of “Hard Work”

January 12, 2009

The other day I was with an older gentleman, and without thinking I made a comment that I hated working, and that I avoid it as much as possible.  This wasn’t on any sort of job, just two people talking.  He didn’t seem to agree with my views toward life and work, and gave me a disdainful look.  I ended the conversation quickly, and changed topics.

He’s your typical person who believes in a “good day’s work”.

There’s one question I’d like to ask such people, “What if everyone had plenty to eat, technology had risen to such a level that housing was practically given for free, etc – then what would you spend your time doing?”  What if there wasn’t any roads needing paved, no buildings needing built, etc.  What if we created machines and all these day to day “hard working” tasks were taken care of for us?  What if there was no need for farmers to work the land, and no need for truck drivers to deliver goods across the country?  What then?

It’s the question of how to spend leisure time.  When I look at the majority of jobs out there, I see people working so hard for a “maintenance” lifestyle.  Their bodies require food, shelter, and clothing, and the vast majority of their life goes into paying for their house, preparing meals, eating, sleeping, showering, brushing their teeth, cleaning house, and other “existence” labors.  If you ask me, all these tasks are “upkeep”.  They’re not really things you do for the sake of doing them, but they’re things you just have to do.

We can see that nature forces such people into a lifestyle, without their choosing.  They’re forced to work to pay the bills, forced to eat, forced to sleep, and the list goes on.  But are they free?

I suppose the real question I’m asking is, “What would you spend your time doing, if you were COMPLETELY free to choose your day to day life, and could get rid of the things you don’t like?”  When I hear people talk about the value of “hard work”, all I hear is people bragging on being a slave to the forces of the world.

There’s an older episode of Star Trek, in the original series, where the crew ends up on an ancient planet, where the inhabitants built robots there which provided for their every need.  The previous inhabitants had long died off, but the robots were still there.

If I was dropped off on such a planet (hopefully with lots of other people), I’d be full of pure bliss.  The planet had huge library archives with all their scientific research, and design specifications for all their technology, and the robots were there to help you do anything you wanted to do – even research new things.  I would spend my time researching, dating women, reading literature, admiring art, listening to music, playing video games, sports… oh it’d be perfect.  I’d have so much to do, and I don’t think my happiness would ever end.  I’d die a very old man, smiling.

If you dropped off the old man I was talking to, he’d be bored and suicidal in no time.  He’s retired and already bored out of his mind, sitting home watching TV.

The difference between him and me is that I’ve learned how to live, and all the old man knows how to do is exist.  If the world isn’t telling him what to do, he has no idea how to spend his time.

Even crazier is that this old man actually has INCENTIVES for things to go wrong.  He can’t live in a world of peace and tranquility, because such a world has nothing for him to do.  If a building burns down, he’s happy because it gives him some work to do, rebuilding the house.  He’s “needed”. If nothing ever goes wrong, and all the machines are functioning properly, he has nothing to do.

I was once watching a show where two armies guys were riding in a boat, escorting a VIP from one location to another.  This was a very dangerous mission, and the two soldiers were very excited.  But something strange happened.  The boat was never ambushed, and the mission was a complete success, with no complications, violence, or problems.  I then laughed when I heard the soldiers say to one another, “Well that was boring.  Hopefully the next mission has more action.”  These guys WANT violence, and WANT problems – all because they have no idea how to spend leisure time.

I don’t think most people want peace and harmony, and to live a long life.  They like war, because it makes life more “interesting” to them.  They like to gossip, because they have nothing better to talk about.  They like religion, because they have no interest in this world.

These same sorts of people, the “hard working” crowds, are the same ones who think all that should be taught in school is how to work a job.  Absolutely ridiculous.  They find no value in studying history, philosophy, thinking about higher forms of life, or studying higher mathematics, or the universe.  All that matters is that we get technically skilled at existing!  But they’re so busy “working” that they haven’t spent any time thinking about the point of it all.

I think the world would completely transform if people knew how to spend their leisure time, truly desired peace (because they have better things to do than fight one another), and wanted to live a long life.   What’s valuable is not work, but what you work for.

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