Tuesday, 5 April 2011

It's All So Senseless

Isn’t it strange how people define themselves by their jobs?

When initially meeting a new acquaintance, the first enquiry is about names. The second invariably centres on what each does for a living. Associated with high status positions is education and many place great store on education, but why? The stock answer is that it enables one to get a good job – but at what cost?

A ‘good job’ (i.e. one paying a lot of money) invariably involves a mind-blowing degree of stress along with the insatiable desire to purchase lots of shiny things that confer status, like an enormous house, the latest car, communications gewgaws and the obligatory biannual holidays in expensive locations - while all the time staying in contact with work with the aid of the aforementioned expensive communications gewgaws and thus ensuring you don’t actually enjoy your holiday.

Getting sucked into the housing ladder means mortgaging yourself up to the hilt in the mistaken belief that you’re actually making money, rather than actually incurring vast debt in purchasing an asset for which you’ll end up paying twice its intrinsic value through interest payments.

What is so wrong with having a socially useful, but not very well paid job, not getting stressed and not storing up vast debt?

Once you earn vast amounts of money, the desire is to earn yet more. Once you earn yet more vast amounts of money, you cannot see how people without similar vast amounts of money can possibly be happy, your reasoning being that they can’t afford all the shiny things that you mistakenly believe make you happy.

However, if things did indeed make you happy, why the desire to continually replace these happiness things with newer and more expensive happiness things? The fact is that you don’t miss what you never had, and thus the secret is to not live beyond your means and be so lacking in self-esteem as to continually need to declare your status to all those around you.

Buddha was spot on when he said happiness lies in letting go of desire, for in desire lies misery. People and relationships are what make you happy, not things. The desire for things is a vicious circle that leads you to wanting more and yet newer things, as the illusory feeling of happiness they confer is transitory.

This is an insight that normally comes only with maturity and experience. For a lucky and select few it arises from not having an enormous ego and associated sense of self-entitlement in the first place.

No, getting a good education should not be with the aim of getting a good job – it should be an end in itself. If a good education can’t be achieved (and for some it simply can’t) then no matter, just focus on your relationships, resist envy and avoid using 25 year-old footballers with newly acquired wealth and hideous morals as role models.

Easier said than done, as (sadly) the broadcasting of status, and the acquisitiveness it inspires, is closely tied to what it means to be human.


  1. CB, is pining after a shiny new Les Paul so bad? ;)

  2. Couldn't agree more. After a trip back to UK and a period well away from the treadmill it really hit me just what a trap we fall into. It costs quite a lot of money to go to work; fares/petrol, decent clothes, £5.00 for coffee break, lunch etc because you don't have the time to prepare yourself something healthy.. evenings out with work colleagues..etc and then the more you earn the more you spend, the more you pay to the government in tax and so in the end the only people that are better off are the government!

  3. Oh absolutely, CB, this is a great disease these days. You are judged by what you do and what you have, instead of who you actually are.

    And yes, education should be a way to fulfill your potential, but in these paranoid times and economic climate, there are young people in college and university who really shouldn't be there.


  4. Painful as it is being forced to agree with you, I have to say, I agree with you. The problem doesn't even end with retirement as people attempt to define you by asking "what did you used to do". At least in such a case you get the opportunity to trawl through your past jobs and pick out the one you think would annoy the person asking you the most.

  5. When I was newly single I defined my work as "lerical" because when I said I was managmeent at a company, men ouldn't get around it.

    A child born into the middle class is set up by parents to succeed as though that is the meaning of life. The meaning of life is happiness and leaving the world a better place when we go, IMHO.

  6. I couldn't agree more - very well said!