animesh kumar

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Posts Tagged ‘Bertrand Russell

Idling work

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Is hard work virtuous? Is frivolity a lesser, condemnable virtue?

To begin with, we need to define first: ‘what is work‘? Bertrand Russell, in his book – ‘In Praise of Idleness‘ – categorizes work into two categories: first, altering the position of matter at or near the surface of earth relatively to other such matters; second, telling others to do so. First kind of work is unpleasant and less paid; second is pleasant and highly paid. The second kind of work has broader ramifications: they not only give orders, but also advises upon what are to be ordered. Usually, two different bodies would offer two different, contrasting advices and therefore invent politics. The second kind of job doesn’t require any knowledge on the subject – in which the advices are offered – but the knowledge of the art of persuasion, i.e. of advertising. It is the second kind of people who have foisted the ideas of ethics, the virtues of ‘hard work’ upon the first kind of people. It is the second kind of people, who taught us “khali dimaag shaitaan ka ghar” (Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do).

He called the first class of people as working class, and the second the leisure class.

If we scan our history, we would find that there were many in the first category, but only a few in the second. Those few – of the leisure class – in order to save themselves of work – invented many theories, rationales, ethnic-and-racial-discriminatory arguments, philosophies, and all. They taught that ‘work is worship‘ and true happiness comes only with true hard toil. They infested these theories as moral ethics into the brains of the first category of people. Although, this happened to limit the expanse of a just system, it helped in inventing philosophies, work management, art, science, and a great deal of what we know today as a civilization.

I wouldn’t go into more details; rather I would try to find an answer to a very simple question: Is key to realizing true happiness is hard work? Is hard work really virtuous? Or, work makes Jack a dull boy?

Yesterday, Times of India had published a debate on this subject. In Time’s view, happiness can’t be bought with cash, and neither can the leisure industry (i.e. the tourism, entertainment, and the likes) sell it. Its views were backed up by the Swedish academia at Gothenburg University that said after a decade long research: true happiness can be achieved only in hard work. A writer finds his joy in words, a musician in music, a scientist in his engagement with scientific problem, and so on. On the counter view, an odious example of Nazi camp was thrown. The Nazi death camp in Auschwitz had the words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei‘ (Work makes you free) carved over its gate.

I laughed when I read through the article. I guess they missed the most vital point of the debate.

It is not about work or leisure; it’s about either only-work or only-leisure. The correct phrase is not ‘Work makes Jack a dull boy‘; but ‘Only work and no fun makes Jack a dull boy‘.

Life is not about working 24 hours a day, even if you love your work, neither of frivoling all the time. It’s about balancing both of these.

To work is necessary to subsist; to leisure is to remain creative.

People might argue that Lord Krishna taught about happiness in the abandon of pure worship; holy books preached about a life of detachment, about no expectations, about the laws of karma, about the divine duty, and a secret, sacrosanct destiny, and pre-ordained life. And therefore, a life of leisure is what ought to be of importance. On the other hand, our past, our history, that taught us the concept of ‘no work, no food’ would continue to defend.

And the debate would go on.

The answer is simple: If none had worked, nothing would have been produced, and none had survived; if none had leisured, more would have gone unconsumed, and resources would have over flown, causing mismanagement and loss of social balance, therefore violence and turmoil, and none had survived. Both are necessary. Both.

Let’s allow the first to prey upon the second, and vice-versa.

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Written by Animesh

January 6, 2006 at 12:16 am

Posted in Diary

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