It’s a bad word in our society, a lightning rod that attracts every social argument imaginable. Manual laborers view with contempt those who work with their minds, considering them lazy and out of touch with reality. Those in intellectually focused professions  look down on manual laborers, certain that no one with ambition would waste time working with their hands. Both despise those who work in entertainment, considering them lazy, immoral, or both. Then, of course, there are those who receive public aid; whether or not due to true need seems irrelevant, whether they are exalted or despised.

Work as a concept is not that complicated. It is the process by which one contributes to one’s society. Every individual has a contribution to make, a way to work, that is unique to him or herself. That contribution may or may not be one that requires specialized knowledge. It may or may not include clocking in for a boss. It may or may not produce what are considered survival necessities. But it is still a necessary contribution.

Animals spend their lives chasing survival. They have little if any other motivation. They have no capacity for appreciation, for individuality, for true creativity. Only humans have such abilities, and as possessor of them, we are not meant merely to survive. We are meant not only to feed, clothe and shelter ourselves, but to learn, to imagine, to produce beauty and laughter, to touch hearts with language, to challenge each other in image or song.

The Creator declared the laborer worthy of his hire. What makes a farmer more entitled to compensation than a poet? What makes a doctor more entitled to compensation than an electrician? What makes a retail worker more entitled than a football player or actor more entitled than an entrepreneur? Does the poet do less work because it was mostly internal and not easily quantifiable? Does the entrepreneur not deserve the same recognition of talent and dedication to their dreams as the actor?

By the same token, because we are designed with such great potential, our lives should not be reduced to a daily grind. Our work should be drawn from our passions and character, and should encompass everything that is important to us as individuals. If we thought this way, the woman who chooses to balance time with her family as well as set hours performing a task for money would not be criticized. The man who pours all his resources into crafting products for sale and whose wife and children work alongside him would be heralded for his efforts instead of vilified for demanding fair pay for his efforts. The poet who poured her troubled soul into song to relieve another’s pain would never be expected to share her gift without pay. Every work would be understood to be essential, and would be compensated as essential.

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