What is the balance between work and life? Is life dichotomous to work? Does work stand in the way of life?
Philosophers differ in their views of relations between work and life. Oshan Jarrow does a good job of discussing different views of different philosophers without necessarily interposing his personal views — an excellent piece which reveals depths of thought of Thoreau’s mind and Emerson’s counter point about importance of work for development of the mind. Both philosophers are right of course, but how are we to reconcile both sets of thoughts for arrival at practical guidance for life?
I believe work, with education a form of work for students, is important for development of the mind yet can get in the way of life.
The important thing I believe is to put work in its proper perspective, meaning while work is viewed as a means of earning a living, ultimately work derives its value within context of contributions to meaningfulness of life.
I am an educator, researcher, consultant. Among other things, I earn a living from helping people get educated within classrooms or online, from sharing my discoveries in academic or pedagogical papers (or books), or from issuance of consulting reports which help companies improve performance or comparative advantage. Ultimately, I enjoy what I do because of the impact it potentially can have on people within my sphere of influence.
The implication of this view of work?
If the work I do hurts my relationships because I become obsessive compulsive, work gets in the way of life.
If the work I do enhances my relationships, it contributes to meaningfulness of life.
Bills, Society, Demands of Employers or Professional Associations, Marriage, Children, Non-flexible Work Schedules all conspire to render work obsessive compulsive.
Bills, Society, and Demands of Employers keep people working when they in fact need to take a break and spend some time away from work. I was surprised when I found out people who got hurt while attending the rock concert in Las Vegas last year stood the risk of losing their jobs if they spent too much time in recuperation post trauma. So if you were lucky enough to survive the shooting, you hurried back to work so you could continue paying your bills, no regard to whatever mind scars still could be in need of healing.
When society gets so callous people whose trauma can be independently and objectively verified have to hurry back to work if they are to keep their jobs, work is getting in way of life.
Marriage, expectations of marriage, and costs of child rearing impose financial responsibilities, such that people keep on working when they in fact are in need of much needed rest for transformation of work already done into meaningfulness within context of their relationships.
I could go on and on but the point is work gets in the way of life first and foremost because organization of society and work is imperfect. Employers think workers inherently are lazy,as such try to get as much pay for as little work as possible. Society believes details of interactions between employees and employers are matters that are private in nature. Good employees do not have opportunity to get adequate rest subsequent to trauma because rather unfortunately there exist lazy persons in the workplace. Sucks? Yes it does but it is the reality of interactions between society, employees, and employers in modern capitalist economies.
First and foremost, work gets in the way of life because organization of society and work is imperfect.
Given organization of society and work never will be perfect, the onus is on each and every person to try to the best of their respective ability to use work for development of mindfulness (Emerson) and for taking of life by the horn (Thoreau). With impetus and resolve of a new year in our sails, let us resolve as much for ourselves, those we love, and those who make their love available to us.
I ask not that you make a resolution. Rather, I ask that you consider adopting a principle, which is to the extent it lies in your power, you will use work for development of mindfulness, yet not allow work become so obsessive compulsive, it stands in the way of enjoyment of your relationships.
Adoption of a principle induces a perpetual change in how we live. A resolution loses its hold once it is achieved, or we realize we have fallen short of its achievement.