Wednesday, November 4, 2015, 4:50 ~ 5:00
Early in the morning, when you are finding it hard to wake up, hold this thought in your mind: ‘I am getting up to do the work of a human being. Do I still resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for and for which I was brought into the world? Or was I framed for this, to lie under the bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant’. So were you born for pleasure: in general were you born for feeling or for affection? Don’t you see the plants, the little sparrows, the ants, the spiders, the bees doing their own work, and playing their part in making up an ordered world. And then are you unwilling to do the work of a human being? Won’t you run to do what is in line with your nature? (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1)
I consider myself blessed that I almost never find it hard to wake up and get out of bed in the mornings. When I awake, my brain gets up to speed almost immediately in contrast to the poor souls I noticed when I lived in a dormitory who stumbled about for an hour or before they woke up.
What does happen to me, however, is that when I am tired, I dread to think about the things I have to do. I feel put upon, irrationally thinking what a sordid and unfair world it is that sternly expects me to work instead of sitting and reading or listening to Chick Webb.
Marcus’ advice here about doing the work of a human being comes in handy when I dread having to work . The work I have to do is to contribute to the teaching and research missions of the university. While tedious routine is a part of those missions, the goal is worthy and my work isn’t silly or useless. Also, I signed up to do about 9 to 12 hours of extra work for extra pay; I had better work to be able to say to myself that I earned that pay. I signed up, I have to take responsibility. The other point is, getting ready to teach requires that I not procrastinate, not waste minutes at time.
William Faulkner said “It's a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can't eat for eight hours; he can't drink for eight hours; he can't make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work. ” I disagree that the fact of work is a shame. I agree with Marcus that it is natural for us human beings to work though the satisfactions and disappointments of work have to be balanced carefully. And certainly more than a few people get handsomely compensated for making this world a sweltering hell for the rest of us.
But work is a social activity – we do it with other people in situations where we put our respect for people, sense of fairness, and benevolence to the test. Work – at least, the work of angels like teachers and air traffic controllers - is what gives the world order.