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Blog // Thoughts
September 1, 2010

Work And Love

There is an idea, attributed to Sigmund Freud, that life essentially consists of work and love. The absence of one or the other will always hold us back from being completely fulfilled. As long as we don’t define the words too narrowly, it is a sentiment I agree with. Love, in our culture, is often […]

There is an idea, attributed to Sigmund Freud, that life essentially consists of work and love. The absence of one or the other will always hold us back from being completely fulfilled. As long as we don’t define the words too narrowly, it is a sentiment I agree with.

Love, in our culture, is often defined as simply romantic, or erotic love. The Ancient Greeks, however, had a number of words for love, reflecting the different kinds of love we experience in life. There was eros, for sexual love, but also words for familial love, brotherly love and so on.

The bible verse most often quoted at weddings; “love is patient, love is kind, etc.” comes from chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. In the middle ages love was translated into the Latin word caritas, from which we derive our word charity. It may have been a bad translation, but it does reflect another side to the human experience of love.

In the same way that love has different expressions, we can also think of work as having different modes as well. A conventional paid job is, perhaps, the easiest way to define work. But, there is also the body of work that a painter or writer might commit themselves to, the work of a parent who looks after a child, or a volunteer who flies to a struggling community to build hospitals.

Perhaps a better way to talk about work is use the old word, vocation. Our vocation is our calling, or mission. It is the reason we get out of bed in the morning; our own unique way of making a difference, denting the universe, leaving our mark.

Looked at this way, work and love define our relationship to the world. Work and love draw lines in reality and help us to see what matters to us and what we should be focussing on. I think that’s why work and love are so important to leading a fulfilled life, they structure our relationships and commitments.

Looked at another way, work and love solve the pizza and TV in your pyjamas dilemma. That is, why don’t we just spend all day watching TV, wearing pyjamas and eating pizza? Well, you can’t really do that if you have work that needs to be attended to, or if we desire to sustain the loves in our lives. There is nothing deadlier than waking up every morning with no sense of what to do with your day. It might be nice while on holidays, but it will unravel you over time (I’ve been there!).

So, work and love help us to say no to some things in order to say yes to what matters most to us. Work and love give our lives direction, purpose and momentum.

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