Most of us think of homework and employment–otherwise known as work–as speed bumps on our road of life. Work is like a speed bump in the sense that it slows us down just enough to be annoying. We do not come to a complete stop. It is just there and we have to deal with it. Because of it, we cannot get to the next thing as fast as we would like. Work is what we do to be able to have our fun. I have to go to work or do my homework. Then I get to go out for the night or hang out with my friends, go to that movie, or whatever else I would rather be doing. I am not sure this has to be the case inevitably.
I think we should be able to look at work in a way that is gratifying and has a fulfilling quality to it. That we look at our accomplishment through work and know we have completed something and can be proud of it. I am not exactly sure how this is achieved. I do not think it is a switch that we can just turn on and off. I alone do not have the schematics for such an intricate process. However, I know that I have had the feeling. Work should be seen more as being in the moment and whatever you are doing in that moment putting some soul/heart into it–making it more than just going through the motions. One of the places that this can be talked about is in the production of food.
Having a couple of jobs at fast food places, I think I can help explain it in a specific example. The example can be used in a broader context to work in general. I have made food for people and they complimented me on how good it was. They ask what I have done differently to make it taste better than my co-worker’s creations. Doing nothing other than following the specifications posted on the wall on how to produce a proper pizza, I honestly do not have an answer for them. Jokingly, echoing an episode of SpongeBob, my answer is, “I make it with love.” As indefinite of an answer as it is, there is a lot of truth to this. I was in the moment of making the food, doing it properly with attention to how it is completed and it turned out better than others who have not done this. I put heart into it, having some pride in my work and it shows through.
I think if I were able to apply this to more than just my food production skills, my life would go about a lot smoother and happier. A quote from Zen Master Dogen, “Never change your attitude according to the materials. If you do, it is like varying your truth when speaking with different people.”
With something like homework, I have no heart in it. It is to get it done to move on to the next thing. If work is work and that is it, just a speed bump slowing me down, then why is some of my work of better quality than other work? I think there is something to be found in pride in your work by putting some soul into it. That makes it something worth admiring.
Ruggles is a junior public philosophy major. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.