Giving to the World
With very few exceptions, all of us must work. Our jobs, those five-days-a-week responsibilities that earn us the money for food, shelter, clothing, and recreational drugs, allow us to both survive and feel like we’re actually doing something with our brief lives. Some jobs pay more than others. Some are dirtier than others. Some are fun and some aren’t. The whole panoply of toiling, however, somehow defines us. We are our work.
We’ve noticed lately that the people who seem most satisfied with their job (and therefore their life) are those who feel as though they’ve given something useful to the world. Teachers, physical therapists, computer programmers — they all make a contribution to the society they live in; they add value to life. Currency traders, professional gamblers, land speculators — their contributions are harder to detect.
The givers, we believe, are essentially happier than the procurers are. Faced with the choice between having more money (the procurers) or actually improving the state of the world (the givers) most Americans have been conditioned to go for the More option, as this is the hallmark of success at the moment. But those who look back on their life knowing they made the world an infinitesimally better place are ultimately more contented with how they spent their fleeting allotment of earthly residence.
Civilization probably wouldn’t function very well with a population comprised solely of doctors, farmers, and poets. But it would certainly be better off than one comprised primarily of arbitraguers and arms dealers.