Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Here's what I suspect about most men's lives

There is a famous statement in "Walden" by Thoreau: "The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation."  I have pondered that statement and I Googled it.  The guy was smart and insightful but he could be wrong.  Having lived for a while and being a man and knowing some other men, I don't actually think that the mass of them is quietly desperate.

I think it is more accurate to say that the mass of men have a tremendous capacity to do their duty or what they take to be their duty.  You might think that the ultimate acceptance of duty on a man's part is when he reports to his draft board (what's a draft board?) to be accepted into the armed forces to be sent somewhere to kill or assist in killing.  I think doing something like that is indeed a clear example of a man doing what he thinks he ought to do.  When you consider that men sometimes join in a battle or a fight, maybe without knowing who they will actually fight, they must be guided by convictions and/or duty.

I think a stronger example is the experience of a man who works steadily at a job that he does not like doing.  A statement I keep at the ready when talking to young people of either gender is for use when they say something about not knowing if they want to do a job "for the rest of their lives."  I usually say something along the lines of "you probably won't be doing it for the rest of your life", maybe not even if you decide you want to.  

But some data suggest that more than 90% of people don't like their jobs.  This is a tricky area and how strong the dislike is, how steady it is, isn't exactly clear.  I don't think it is especially fashionable to like your job.  If most people don't and you admit you like it, you are out of step. It seems possible that people of either gender can feel that going steadily and reliably to a job is itself a pleasure.  A mild one, maybe but a satisfactory one.  

If a job is not satisfying, it may be a step forward to realize one's feelings.  Perhaps explore alternative jobs but also steps that can be taken to make the job more pleasant or challenging or rewarding. I suspect that for many people, doing what one takes as one's responsibility and doing it well is itself a pleasure.

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