I have spent many long nights thinking about what the point of life is – more specifically, what constitutes a good aim for my working hours – and I’ve been thinking about it even more as I prepare to take a break from academia for some years. While my answer has generally always involved created and spreading knowledge, I like to think I’ve generally tried to identify the role in which I would do the most good possible. My conclusion: given my talents and skills, the best I can hope to do is help our social organization become as effective at improving the human lot as our technology has gotten, through research and through education.
At least, that was what I thought until tonight. I am sometimes a glutton for emotional trauma, so I watched Lions for Lambs and then read these comics. The movie is about… well, to me, it seems like it was about how people who try to stand up for what they believe in end up dead.
The comics, on the other hand, make me feel like the only jobs worth having are rescue worker, doctor – martyr? – something that reduces the suffering of humans while we thrash through our moments on earth. Let me see if I can explain this.
When I actually get off my ass and get out into society, I am aware – intensely aware – of people at work. Whenever I drive down the main business street in the town my mom lives in, my skin tingles with the presence of hundreds of people who are idling hours away for minimal pay and meager respect. Not just the employees, but the customers who are reaping the rewards of their own flushed days – some meaningless junk with a use that is totally detached from the real meaning of utility, and the temporary subservience of someone else who will expect your obedience when the roles are reversed. It all feels a bit too much like a 6 billion person circle-jerk, sometimes.
When was the last time you actually did something wonderful for someone else, rather than just talking about it? Something that really changed a person’s life for the better? Go read those comics, then let me know.