Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Oh Yeah

Suddenly, it's all okay.

I suspect that's more a chemical response than a conceptual breakthrough, but it was accompanied by some recovered understanding.

Most of my suffering here is born of the idea -- arrant nonsense, as I knew even before I had the Buddhist philosophy to back it up -- that I should be the one person in the world who transcends his circumstances. I treat this work as if it didn't matter very much because it doesn't matter very much. My company has deliberately chosen to make people redundant -- managers are instructed to make sure that if one of their people is run over by a truck, everything necessary will still get done. & If my company doesn't produce this product, someone else will. I have no sense of urgency about my work because there's nothing urgent about it. Nobody will be a whit the happier if I blaze through this project in four weeks, rather than in four months. I'm not rewarded here for how well I do my job; I'm rewarded for how well I establish verifiable objectives and then verify having achieved or exceeded them. In fact no one has a clue as to how well I do my job. Under these circumstances it's rather odd that I care about doing it at all. My understanding that keeping my job mostly has to do with company organizational changes and industry trends I have no control over is perfectly accurate. Would I really want to be someone who misunderstood things so badly as to think this work was important? Or who didn't respond reasonably to the relative importance of things?

The question of my own worthiness, as usual, simply muddies the water. I'm just a human being, in a particular set of circumstances. There's plenty of evidence that, given sufficient motivation, I work hard. They employ me here because I do what's important to them -- keep a level head, keep communications open, deliver exactly what I say I will when I say I will, have a good instinct for what constitutes a real problem, and send up warning signals when I recognize one. If they wanted something else, they could get something else. Or they could change my circumstances.
The question of whether I want to change my circumstances -- here or elsewhere -- is an entirely different one. But it's foolish to expect that I'll suddenly behave radically differently in the same old circumstances. That sort of triumph-of-the-will fantasy is a by-product of believing -- as we are daily exhorted and encouraged to do -- that our Selves are free-standing independent impermeable essences, sailing through a world that is completely distinct from us. We act on it, but it doesn't act on us. A silly belief, but I still get caught by it when I let my guard down.

The only really interesting question all this brings up is -- do I want this kind of job? Would I really rather have a job that mattered, or am I happy to cruise along like this, my creative energies mostly directed to blogging and studying Chinese and meditating and so forth, so long as the money's good?

I've understood clearly for years that the reason I do this job is to make money. I want to get the kids through college and have money for retirement. That's it. I neither get nor expect a lot of other satisfaction from this work. If that's not okay with me, I should find something else -- but in any case there's no need to get in a tizzy about what all this proves about my character. There's not much to be usefully proven about the exact ethical qualities or moral worth of chimeras.

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