Friday, October 08, 2004

The Pilgrimage of Work

The Pilgrimage of Work

I have allocated the next couple of days here in Jakarta to dwell in isolation so that I can finish up my remaining work. I face a bit of challenge maintaining my concentration in KL as there are so many distractions there.

No one likes work--especially tedious and boring work. Isn't life a lot better if we can make money without working? I for one would love to just laze around all day, sipping wine, reading my books while listening to my favourite classical music.

When you are self-employed and working from home, it is even more difficult to ensure that you put in a reasonable amount of work everyday. How do we make ourselves look at work positively? Let's start by examining the main reasons why people work: interest, fear and rewards.

I wouldn't say I am very passionate about my IT work. But most of the time, it is mildy interesting and quite OK. I should not complain. The good thing working as a vendor is that you get to meet with a lot of people. As a consultant, you also get to sample your customer's world without having to suffer the drudgery of spending years in the same dull environment. It's a bit like having many one-night stands versus a long term relationship. That constant promise of fresh experience helps to sustain interest a little bit.

Fear will always be there to drive us on--if we don't work, we can't pay our bills. So we don't have to worry about any lack of motivation in this aspect. The survival instinct is our fuel and propeller. Even when all our bills are paid, some of us still fear that we cannot keep up with the Joneses. Thank God I do not need that as motivation. I'm happy as long as my bills are paid.

Rewards come in many forms. The most tangible are monetary rewards. Prestige and position are also important to some people. Again I have no interest in that; I'll take my money, thank you.

But like what I've mentioned before in previous postings, the real reward of work is work itself. Even though work can sometimes be tough, tedious and boring--it is good for the soul. To use a cliche, it is the journey, not the destination that matters.

Work is like a pilgrimage: spiritual pilgrims go through numerous trials and overcome many dangers before they reach their sacred goal. In the process of doing so, the pilgrim undergoes a transformation that makes them gain certain spiritual insights (read Paulo Cuelho's The Pilgrimage).

In our regular working lives, we would call that "experience". Experience is but the mundane aspect of that transformation. We often see experience as "content" that is being accumulated over time--we know more because we have seen and heard more. But it is actually more than that.

As in a pilgrimage, our souls undergo a transformation when we put our hearts and minds into work. We always emerge a better person from every job we finish. Initially the ego drives us to acquire, accomplish and seek recognition. But at some point the soul will learn that only through selfless work does one really progress in life.

A river at its source will not know the way to the sea; but as it flows, the rocks it encounters along the way will "correct" its direction so that it ends up in sea.

The soul is like a river. Through the difficulties of work, the soul will ultimately finds its true direction and calling.

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