A Response to a Classic Essay on Work
I reread Dorothy Sayers classic essay “Why Work?” last week.Sayers made a compelling case that work should not be undertaken for the money it provides, but rather for the sake and enjoyment of the work itself. I find this idea personally appealing, but on reflection would like to take issue with Sayers on a couple of points.
The idea that we should work because we find it purposeful and fulfilling, and because it can be a full expression of our nature, is immensely appealing to many of us, and for good reason. And I certainly endorse the idea that moving in this direction can make our lives richer and more enjoyable, both for ourselves and for others. But I think Sayers overlooked a couple of critically important points.
And the Fight Against Famine.
This week we talk about the story of Norman Borlaug and his fight against famine. We also note some of the theological implications of Borlaug’s work.
Borlaug was a Nobel Prize winner who died in 2009. His work in the field of agriculture may very well have saved hundreds of millions of lives from famine. He and his teams accomplished this by developing new breeds of wheat and new agricultural methods in Mexico, Pakistan, India, and other countries, at a time when each of these countries faced the prospect of mass starvation. And they did so in the face of powerful political opposition.
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Insights from the story of Joseph
In this episode we talk about financial crisis, and how our faith and our spirituality can help us prepare for and survive such crisis.
As we go through our lives most of us encounter financial ups and downs, sometimes very serious ones. This is true for both individuals and for societies. And in the interconnected world of today, the global economy as a whole can move through a series of economic expansions and contractions, sometimes leading to improved material well being, sometimes to hardship.
We will discuss the Biblical story of Joseph and the Pharaoh and how this might provide us with some important insights into how we can weather the storms.
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This week we talk about everyday heroes – – the people who show up for work every day, doing work they do not particularly like, in order to support others for whom they care.
We sometimes think of work done primarily for money as “just a job”, as though it has less importance than work done as a calling or even work done to further a career. But this is not fair.
It is important to think about not just the money but what the money means. There can be a tendency in some quarters to think of greed, a desire for material objects, or maybe a striving for social status. But in most cases, people are working for things that can have considerably more validity than the stereotypes might suggest. They might be working to create a better life for their children, move to a safer neighborhood, reduce the chronic anxiety of financial insecurity, or maybe just to put food on the table. All of these desires, and many others, are valid – – maybe even more valid than some of the so-called callings we sometimes hear about.read more
Wisdom, failure, and the lessons for our work lives.
Solomon was one of the greatest kings in the Bible, perhaps second only to King David. He accomplished great things and had a reputation for having great wisdom.
But there is another side to the story, one involving the misuse of power and the resulting disaster. In this episode we will explore this story and draw insights that can help us in our work lives.(Time 10:33)
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There are great many products and services, and a great many jobs, that are needed to build and maintain a flourishing society: those who produce food and other goods, distributors and retailers, communicators of various kinds, accountants, lawyers, and administrators, and many, many others.
And here we have a problem – – a problem of perception. The contribution of the people doing many of these jobs goes unappreciated, at least in religious contexts.(Time: 9:01)
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Three weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi speak at the Western Positive Psychology Association conference. Csikszentmihalyi is one of the founders of positive psychology (with Martin Seligman) and is well known and highly regarded for having developed the concept of flow.
Csikszentmihalyi provided a preview of a paper on which he and Daniel Gruner are working called (as of now) Complexity: Towards a New Measure of Societal Well Being. He presented data that showed a correlation between societal complexity and various measures of societal well being.
The topic surprised me. Before hearing the talk, I probably would have been more inclined to associate well being with simplicity rather than with complexity. When I think of societal complexity, I think of burdensome policies and procedures and a regulatory system creating complex rules faster than they can be understood. But Csikszentmihalyi and Gruner mean something quite different.read more
This month’s Reason Magazine (March, 2017) has a very interesting article by Francisco Toro on the bad seeds of Uganda. He means bad seeds literally – – seeds that do not germinate when planted.
I have a special interest in what Toro has to say about this because I have been involved in a small way in several small agribusiness ventures in Uganda. I can vouch for what he is saying – – the bad seed problem is real and awful. Farmers can buy apparently good, certified seeds, and then have very small crops because a high proportion of the seeds do not germinate.
The fundamental problem is counterfeit seed. . .read more
The Entrepreneurial Calling: Perspectives from Rahner by the late William J. Toth of Seton Hall is an extraordinary theological reflection on the entrepreneurial vocation and the deeper significance of the entrepreneur’s hope, risk, and service to others. A central concept for Toth was that of “providential love.” This concept combines the idea of looking forward and anticipating the future with a desire to create something of value for others. The entrepreneur intends to create part of the future, but at the same time recognizes that success or failure will be determined by others who are free to accept or reject the offer made by the entrepreneur.read more
Most people work in the private sector, and specifically for a business enterprise of some sort. When we think about workplace renewal, we should consider issues pertaining to work within business enterprises. To be clear, when we speak of business we mean the creative process that is for the purpose of producing and delivering products and services that can be profitably exchanged with others in the marketplace. This is quite different from, for example, using political or family influence with governments to control resources and capture subsidies, or using social coercion to maintain a privileged economic position.read more