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Monday August 02, 2004, 00:53

It's late, and late nights tend to lead to big thinking about little things. Things that don't get discussed enough during the waking hours, when thoughts tend to be more lucid and less dramatic. But the day was spent alternately with people and reading, and both have the tendency to fill heads with thoughts, so it seems only fitting that wrapping up the day would bring out some new ones.

So, the big thinking surrounds a simple question: is it possible to lead a worthy life while not serving the public interest? Truly, the question is whether there is value in living and working throughout one's life on pursuits that do not serve to better society as a whole? Which isn't to say that those who do not directly benefit society are not good and decent human beings, but simply that the life that those individuals have led are not really worthy, overall. To be sure, a quick survey of any group of people may find that leading a worthy life may not rank too highly on the list of qualities required in the living of a life. Topping that list may be financial security, love and kindness and pride, which are all worthy in their own right, but may not, in fact, elevate the life being lived to the point of being worthy itself. To live and work with regard to ones immediate friends and family may be notable enough, but it seems that to truly live a worthwhile life, one in which the world as a whole would feel the impact of the loss of that life, one must dedicate a lifetime to serving the world at large.

I have been mulling this over for quite some time now. And, in fact, the preceding paragraph has been sitting open on my computer for the better part of this month, waiting for a conclusion, or some exploration, or simply to be saved and placed online for criticism. I have been thinking about this a lot lately due in no small part to the more recent of my musings on the subject of my current employment situation which finds me in the particular employ of a company whose mission it is to help companies achieve peak performance, etc etc which means, in essence, that the goal is to help a company be successful or, to draw it out even more, to make more money. Now, a company with money can employ people who will then get paid and be able to do things like purchase clothing and food and medication (so the theory goes) which is undeniably a good thing. But does my work, or the work of the people at the company for that matter, make the kind of difference where one could say that, undeniably, this is a life worth living?

I suppose that the flip side to this thinking, that a life is not necessarily worthy unless it falls into some narrow category of "serving the public" with the implied "and not for the sake of shareholders," is that the worthy life would have nothing to serve but for all of the people working in the employ of others simply to get by in their daily lives. Chefs and cooks perhaps? Not quite, but if everyone is off being a do-gooder, to whom will the good be done?

I've wanted to get more into "business" for quite some time now, and now that I am in, and in the thick of things (being the sort whose job it is to help others in the business world do better at the practice of business-ing), I am wondering exactly what it is that I was looking for and what it is that I would really, in the end, like to be doing. The nice thing about this world is that the skills that one learns here are so applicable to the rest of one's career that I feel like the entirety of the world is made up of one business or another, encompassing even those truly "worthy" endeavors.

So does the worthy life need to be exclusively public-facing? Exclusively outwardly-directed? Or can the worthy life straddle the line? Can it serve the public and itself simultaneously? Does the worthy life exclude all those who work for themselves out of necessity, and for the rest of the population out of desire? Is it even important to draw this distinction?

Late at night, one can imagine doing with one's life what one truly ought, and not what one might have believed to be the best course of action at a particular juncture. I am speaking, of course, about myself, and the life I lead versus the life that I will lead when this particular phase has completed. The truth is that there is plenty of time in ones life in which to focus on personal development, to focus on an outward-facing worthwhile development of the world, and that period of life when we are all just running around, frantic, trying to find our place. Though applying the distinction of a life that is fundamentally worthy may not truly fit the mold into which society operates, it is nonetheless an interesting exercise to stop and think, every so often, what one is doing, and what one should be doing.

Everyone has a role in this world. It's just important to do a reality check every so often.

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