Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Reimagining work (2)

Last night I picked up a collection of writing by Ralph Waldo Emerson and opened it at random. I wanted something to read for ten or twenty minutes and I'm not currently in the middle of anything.

I opened the book to a page that had journal entries dated January-February 1861, and read the following:
"Gurowski asked 'where is this bog? I wish to earn some money: I wish to dig peat.'--"O no, indeed, sir, you cannot do this kind of degrading work.'--'I cannot be degraded. I am Gurowski.'"

Yesterday, earlier in the day, I wrote my first "Reimagining work" entry, and this little piece of Emerson's represents a similar mindset about work. The work is not degrading if you will not be degraded. I have no idea who Gurowski is, but that is irrelevant. It's immaterial who you are; every thinking person adopts attitudes about their work. But, as Emerson's vignette shows, there are two sides to every story: differing attitudes are possible.

To what extent are you committed to the attitude(s) you hold? Can you change the way you think about things and react to things? Of course you can. You do all the time. You may not feel like you can control how you react, but there are those who strongly believe that we all have power over how we, as thinking people, can make choices about how to respond to the situations we face. For example, this idea is the fundamental basis of psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's logotherapy--described in his book Man's Search for Meaning.

My belief is that yes, of course, we can control our responses and attitudes to a great extent if we practice and work on changing the patterns that we don't like. But, like many practices, like playing a musical instrument or perfecting an athletic skill, it requires diligent effort and attention to productive means of accomplishing our goals.

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