Sunday, February 15, 2015

Paul Jaskunas

I was surprised to learn that love is now considered essential to the employment relationship. Some of us are lucky enough to have lovable jobs, but this strikes me as an extreme standard to apply with respect to most positions.

When I lived in Eastern Europe more than a decade ago, I found that people had a more moderate approach. People did not seem to feel the need to love their job or even talk much about it. You could become well acquainted with someone without finding out what he did for a living. When the subject did come up, it seemed to be beside the point. The real action of life — the singular life of the mind, soul and body — was elsewhere, wrapped up in private pursuits, away from the workplace.

That may have had something to do with the size of the economy there. It’s not easy to be thrilled about work when opportunity is scarce. Admittedly, the dynamism of Western capitalism depends upon people who work with missionary zeal, who refuse to accept that a job is merely a job. It must be something more — a vocation, an adventure, a journey to higher heights.

I often do feel this way about my work, but I’d rather not feel obliged to profess my enthusiasm. I’ll keep my chin up; on a good day I might even whistle. But please don’t ask me to smile if I’m not in the mood.

--"The Tyranny of the Forced Smile," New York Times, February 14, 2015.