Category Archives: Work and Vocation

Red Vineyards Near Arles by Vincent Van Gogh

Should We Consider Our Work a Form of Personal Expression?

With the release of the movie Ender’s Game, many people have been asking whether the political and religious views of the book’s author, Orson Scott Card, should affect their opinion of the movie. Though I have not been following the debate closely, I understand that some people even called for a boycott of the film (which, evidently, was not successful). On the geek culture podcast The Incomparable, host Jason Snell used the occasion to speak more broadly about authors whose views, personality, or later writing caused him and his fellow panelists to reject their earlier, classic work. The podcast – entitled “I Assume Everyone Is Awful” – is quite good, and I recommend listening to it. They cover many of the same authors that I’ve given up on or struggled with myself.[1]

Throughout the podcast, though, I kept wondering about an assumption at the heart of the conversation. Would it have made sense for them to be discussing, say, accountants and plumbers in the same way? Even staying within the work of writing, should we care about the political or religious views of technology writers? Since the Romantics, art[2] has been regarded differently than other kind of work. Art has been considered to be a form of personal expression different in quality than other forms of work, and the artist has been considered the kind of person whose expressions matter more than other persons.

I’m not convinced that art should be considered as a different category of work, which led me to wonder:

Should our work be considered a form of personal expression?

There are at least three valid answers to this question. Continue reading Should We Consider Our Work a Form of Personal Expression?

Wrestling, kayfabe, and only labels

Work, Identity, and Wreck-It Ralph

In 2012, Wreck-It Ralph joined The Incredibles[1] as an animated film that deals with those most adult of themes: vocation, work, and the meaning of life. Where The Incredibles deals with one’s choice of work and the freedom to use one’s gifts, Wreck-It Ralph deals with the complex relationships between image, identity, and vocation .

Wreck-It Ralph is a video game villain who spends his days destroying an apartment building that is then relentlessly rebuilt by the game’s hero, Fix-It Felix Jr. Ralph feels trapped in his role and longs for something more. In the brilliant opening scene, Ralph attends a meeting of Bad-Anon, a support group for video game bad guys. Attempting to help Ralph see himself in a better light, a zombie tells him, “Good, bad — only labels.”

Work Identity and Self Identity

This might sound like a position of moral relativism, but none of these “villains” are truly bad in a moral sense. They’re entertainers, playing a role given to them by the game designers. Being a “bad guy” is best understood as part of the video game kayfabe. Kayfabe is the depiction of staged story lines of professional wrestling, in which some wrestlers are “good” (“faces,” as in “babyfaces”) and some are “bad” (“heels”). They are all actors, not actual heroes or villains. In the ring, two wrestlers may act like die-hard enemies. In reality, they are coworkers in the same wrestling company, perhaps even good friends. Their wrestling personas have been assigned to them by their manager, all as part of the entertainment. Continue reading Work, Identity, and Wreck-It Ralph

Loving My Coworker As Myself

Some blog posts are written from a position of authority. Others, like this one, are written from a position of humility, because the author needs to learn from the post as much as anyone.

So far, I have covered several major themes that I will return to in the future:

  • Not only are there no small roles, but there are also no small actors.
  • If think a job is “unimportant,” that says more about our value system than the actual importance of that job.
  • No matter your job, you are doing God’s work if you are involved in the stewardship or restoration of God’s creation.

If you feel unappreciated, or if you wonder whether your work matters, I hope these ideas will encourage you. Today, however, I want to focus on someone else. You see, if these ideas are true about you and your own work, they’re also true about everyone you work with:

  • The coworker who just can’t seem to do anything right
  • The manager who never cuts you any slack
  • The executive who seems more concerned about his annual bonus than his employees

As well everyone else you encounter in your working day:

  • The annoying salesperson who won’t take no for an answer
  • Customers who take too long to make a decision
  • Vendors whose products don’t work as advertised

Each one of these people is made in the image of God, doing God’s work, in a role that just might be far more important than you realized. Continue reading Loving My Coworker As Myself