Thursday, July 13, 2006

Am I a Giver or a Taker?

A frightening question that has crossed my mind lately is this: is my lifetime more than half-finished? I am getting close to 40, and that means the answer to that question very well could be “yes.” The related--and even scarier--issue is whether my life to this point has had any real meaning. Has my existence on this rock made any positive difference to the Universe or not?

Yes, yes, my friends and loved ones are glad I’ve been around. I have spread my seed and done my part to see that the human race continues. I have performed some minor acts of kindness now and again. Blah, blah, blah. But have I lived a life, according to my most deeply held standards of “good,” that contributes to the world?

My chosen profession rests near the core of that discussion. I live--and quite well at that--because I receive a salary and benefits for doing a job. I also chose the career I have pursued for nearly 15 years, and in which I may remain for another 25 years or so. Am I giving to the world at least as much as I am receiving in monetary and other benefits? In my system of morality, it is a human being’s responsibility to give as much as possible and take as little as possible, especially for those who have received so much by the accident of birth. And I had more than I could ever have needed to start me off in the right direction.

Unfortunately, I often think I may be taking much more than I am giving. It feels as if my professional life has been running on autopilot. I do just what needs to be done, and not much more. Since I have some experience in this job, I can exert even less effort than I did when I first started. Also, there are relatively light expectations put on me by others, so that means I can cruise even easier.

Additionally, I wonder if my chosen profession is all it’s cracked up to be. I work in a helping profession for a large, national corporation. I came into my career with stereotypical optimism and ambition. Now, I curse every bit of bureaucratic crap that crosses my desk. I feel as if the hierarchy is a joke and many of my co-laborers are incompetent crackpots. (Of course, I am an angel with no need for reform.) My whole profession sometimes seems like a waste of everybody’s time.

Is anything I do worth anything at all?

All that is the bad news. The good news, which I’ll write about later, is that there are occasional glimpses of true meaning in what I do. I do have some spectacular colleagues who show me by their example that there can still be real integrity and excellence in this job. And, perhaps most important of all, I have more power to change myself and my work than I realize. Or perhaps I just never wanted to admit I have that power. Autopilot is easier than actually putting some effort into flying the damn plane.

Despite the negative tone of this blog entry, I am actually more positive now than when I began this blog. Then, I was sure I’d someday choose a new career path. Today, I think it is possible I’ll retire doing what I do now.


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