What do you do?


Somewhere along the way (was it 2nd grade?) we started to get the idea that big books, books of consequence, didn’t have pictures. Dismayed, we accepted the burden of plodding through the rest of our typeset lives.  Thankfully, author Alain de Botton’s work continues to suggest our fears might be unfounded.  With his forthcoming book, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (which includes over 100 images from photographer Richard Baker), he even gives us reason to reconsider the nature of our daily plodding itself:

 “…the most remarkable feature of the modern working world is in the end internal… in the widely-held belief that our work should make us happy. All societies have had work at their centre; ours is the first to suggest that it could be something much more than a punishment. Ours is the first to imply that we should seek to work even in the absence of a financial imperative. Our choice of occupation is held to define our identity to the extent that the most insistent question we ask of new acquaintances is not where they come from or who their parents were but what they do, the assumption being that the route to a meaningful existence must invariably pass through the gates of paid employment.”

“There is immense unthinking cruelty discreetly coiled within the assurance that everyone can discover happiness through work and love. It isn’t that these two entities are invariably incapable of delivering fulfilment, only that they almost never do so. And when an exception is misrepresented as a rule, our individual misfortunes, instead of seeming to us quasi-inevitable aspects of life, will weigh down on us like particular curses. In denying the natural place reserved for longing and incompleteness in the human lot, the modern world denies us the possibility of consolation for our fractious marriages and our unexploited ambitions, and condemns us instead to solitary feelings of shame for having stubbornly failed to make more of our lives.”

De Botton is a “philosopher” and writer whose genius is masking profound musings in deceptively simple and enjoyable books.  He’s previously written about architecture (The Architecture of Happiness) and travel (The Art of Travel).  All are illustrated, engaging, and recommended. If you’re travelling to London before the end of the month, you may want to stop by the School of Life’s Alternative Job Center too.