The Real Meaning of Work

Work is one of today’s most difficult words to define. Despite some definitions given to the word: “work”; many people are still starved for the meaning of work. A student who is studying hard would say he is working hard, a doctor who has many patients waiting for himself would say he has a lot of work, and a mother, house boy or a house girl at home who has finished cooking  and doing the laundry would say: “I am finished with my work”.

Work is one of today’s most difficult words to define. Despite some definitions given to the word: “work”; many people are still starved for the meaning of work.

A student who is studying hard would say he is working hard, a doctor who has many patients waiting for himself would say he has a lot of work, and a mother, house boy or a house girl at home who has finished cooking  and doing the laundry would say: “I am finished with my work”. Finally, what is the appropriate definition of work?

There is a yearning to align life value with work to make it meaningful. In order to find a proper meaning of work we have to consider the human’s instinct of value. good work is the one that valorize the one who does it. How many people want to be called president,administrator, honorable, Chief, or other valuable titles that people get after their jobs? The answer can be found in the competitions that people do to achieve such honors which make them more “valuable” in the society.

Furthermore, jobs like gardening, cooking and waiting are not envied by many people, not only because they pay little money, but also because they don’t immediately respond to human’s instinct of appreciation and dignity.

Pence, a contemporary writer, agrees with this assumption by listing the following as the realization of good work: development and exercise of unique personal qualities, intrinsic satisfaction in the activity, personal choice in accepting the job in the first place. All the listed elements enshrine the quest of value on the side of the worker.

For instance, if we compare the most envied jobs in Rwanda, we find that almost all of them are jobs that make the worker more admired and respected in the society. However, we cannot totally say that there might be a type of work which is not valuable. First of all, because the notion of “value” is complex in itself, and because it is relative,  what is valuable for one person may not be valuable for another. Pence hones in on that difference the conception of value by saying: “If Jones regards gardening as intrinsically unsatisfying but Smith enjoys it very much, then gardening will be labor for Jones but not for Smith” (94).

Secondly, what seems to be invaluable for the worker may be valuable for the one who benefits from the work the worker has done. I feel that whatever job you have; your work is valuable to a certain extent.  I shift from a work for value to a work for a purpose. work is also defined as an activity done with a will of achieving something.

That desire of achieving something can sometimes result from/into a compassion (from Latin: “co-suffering”), which is a virtue of doing  something regardless of the pain that may result from it. There are people who work with an intense desire of serving others as their primordial goals; their jobs are callings.

But, even if work is not done by compassion it is still work because it is done for a purpose, which can be money or self-fulfillment.

I feel that every Rwandan who do their work with love or for any other good purpose are working regardless what kind of job they do.We cannot assume that if someone is working at home; taking care of the family, the house, the garden, the cattle or something else, doesn’t  work.

They are making a service for the whole family; they are producing. Production is the essential element of work. I feel that house boys and house girls work too; there is no way of saying that those who sit in offices are the only ones who work.

In addition, work can be an activity that we do to gain knowledge without neccesarily being paid for it. Work doesn’t involve money all the time. There is another kind of work which involves knowledge, studying or apprenticing. It is work, because by studying or apprenticing, one improves and produces a new thinking which can be useful for either him or others. All students work; they have to be respected as workers.

In Rwanda, almost all the time, we say that someone has gone to work only if he works in an office somewhere. This is something we should change because the real definition of work is: every valuable production we make for a purpose with a purpose in mind; it is not limited in recognition, honor or pecuniary acquisition. It’s quite visible that those people we think don’t work, work too.

Millsaps College
United States of America

 

Have Your SayLeave a comment