Again, for want of something better to write, I shall touch on why I work.
Once I interviewed a fresh graduate and I asked her why she wanted to work. She answered, "To earn a living." I was quite unhappy with her answer. Does one crawl so low? Doesn't one work for something better. I hired her because I wanted to show her what work could really be. She couldn't write a proper sentence in English, and not to mention her spelling. "Is you free?" I gave her work, real work. She struggled and cried. I ignored her. It's really up to her whether she wanted to work or not. Was she really ready to do it to earn a living. In the end, when I left the industry, she cried. She is still in the job, doing quite well, I heard.
Now, the point I wish to make is that I work to live.
Of course, we are talking about privileged positions. I was privileged to be able to go to school and not having to work to help out the family income, like both my parents who had to. I did remember one incident when I was asked by my family on a Sunday to get one of my many uncles to come along and follow my father to earn some money for doing a job. I stayed back at my grandmother to play the guitar, I think, and had a jolly good time with my younger uncles. When I returned home, my mother was furious, asked why I didn't come back and joined my father and uncle and earned some extra money. I knew we were not rich but had never thought ourselves to be poor, living in a compared low-cost council flat with seven kids and a grandfather thrown into a one bedroom and one living room (the room I lived in with my grandfather). There was always food, whatever is available, and hunger was and still is a nice ingredient when enjoying ordinary food. The only thing I dreaded about meal times was that I had to help in the buying of vegetables (never remembered meat), cooking of rice over charcoal and then gas, the chopping of shallots, the washing of dishes, and the washing of kitchen floor. I went through all these chores with the songs in my head, and when there was time, to do a few drawings. Uncle Number Four could sometimes come around with a camera he borrowed and I would use up the whole film, and he was never angry with me. But, anywhere, my mum was so crossed with me, about my lack of concern for the family wellbeing, that she threw me out of the flat, followed by my schoolbag. I was rejected until my father came back and returned me to the family. My mother was happy because he had made some extra money. Later, I learnt that she needed the money to pay for the shool fees of her younger brothers and sisters.
I was privileged to go to the UK to study. Kids who did not got abroad to study would not have a chance to go the local universities because of limited places for us. My parents decided ever since when they were married that they did not want their kids to suffer like them, for without a proper education, we would not have a good future - which my father interpreted for me to be "working in an air-conditioned office" rather than "slogging under the hot sun." Theirs was a good team, each doing their part, and keeping to their joint vision which invariably was for their children. My father always said he graduated from the university of the world. He kept his eyes and ears and mind open, with the mind always computing the permutations of the possibilities of how to make one cent grow to a dollar and then a hundred. He played no stock market, nor as they would say among the shopkeepers themselves, jazz up the proper market. They were good honest and hardworking people, keeping their expenses one notch below their incomes however low that might be,and never spending more than subsistence no matter how high a particular income might happen to be. Sweat by sweat, my father saved enough for him to be confident enough to ask me, "Son, do you want to study in England." I said, "Yes, if it is possible." He said, "Go and apply."
It was therefore a privilege for me to study. It was also a great burden, for my father told me that every cent I spend contains his sweat. How could I make my father sweat - so much? It was RM7.80 to the pound sterling. I studied under immense duress. My father wanted me to be a doctor. My grades were not good enough. I asked him what he wanted me to study. He said, "Economy" because the Mat Salleh manager from Inchcape kept saying "It's the economy" when rent payment was slow.
So, economics as the study of scarce resources and opportunity cost is not something I had to think very hard about in order to understand its full significance. You have one or two bullets, and you better hit your targets, but before that to make sure that that's what you really wanted to do. Otherwise, it is pure waste. I study economics, philosophy and computer science in my first year, and did all the advanced theoretical economics after that in order to get value for money.
Studying was not the easiest thing for me. It was really hard work, to know the meaning of every word, the meaning of every sentence, and the gist of the whole book and the purpose of the whole subject matter and how it all relates to the world we live in. I gave up studying for myself, because life is an endless cycle, of the same old stuff in new skins, and how differences from biological accidents at the skin level. Has human beings gone so shallow? I found studying easy only after I studied not for myself, that I must pass my examinations for my father not to sweat without purpose, that I must understand what is going on in this 3-dimensional illusion with time so that the noble beings, no matter how lowly, do not succumb to dispair and undue unhappiness.
I have no fear about earning a sufficient wage to feed myself and my family. My only fear is that I waste my time and energy doing mindless things which serve no purpose to anybody and sometimes not even myself. I fear being a person thinking, saying and doing things which hurt or harm oneself and others. I have no right to make the world for anyone, since it is already so tough for everyone - even for the wrongheaded and greedy and mindless, for they too suffer their own foolishness.
I work to make a contribution to the society in which I live, no matter how small the contribution may be, no matter how disturbed the society I live in may have become. I work to find meaning in life. My life is useless, I do not need it. But I will use it to serve.