In Europe the question’s considered rude, but in America it’s one of the first things people ask: “What do you do?” That is, “what is your work?”
To which the answer may largely explain: “who are you, anyway?” We talk about our work as our mission in life, our vocation in nearly religious terms. Yet we also talk of work as the curse of our days, with overtones of “take this job and shove it.”
The mixed messages around work get more curiously contradictory as prosperous Americans work harder and longer than they ever have, just when technology and imports should have lightened the load. How is it that instead of spending more time at home and at leisure with family and friends, we’ve made paid work the center of our lives-as we’ve made the work ethic the most righteous of high values.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)
Joanne Ciulla, author of “The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work”