Earlier on today, I was having a conversation on whatsapp with a friend, KS, in the USA. She is a PhD student at John Hopkins University under a full scholarship to study genetics. She was telling me about how stressful her work and personal life are and how poor her health has been of late. She did not sound very happy, and in her own words, she hated her life.
Well, there was nothing much that I could do to rid her of her bodily ailments over the phone. Also, I had no way of helping her with her relationship problems given her reluctance in telling me anything. And so, the only words of advice I could offer her was to not let work ruin her life. Having been brought up in Singapore, I knew exactly the mentality she had towards her work. “Must get published, must top class, must make a name for myself to be invited back as an independent investigator, must complete my work and graduate ASAP.”
We have been born and bred in a hypercompetitive environment, and have been taught from a young age of the importance of the “paper chase.” You are foolish to pursue professional sport, music, art, or drama- they cannot guarantee you a secure future. Do medicine, law, or business instead- these are the subjects that will earn you the “ooh”s and “ahh”s from people around you. Join everybody else, run the rat race, aim for the 5Cs (cash, credit card, career, car, condominium), live miserably.
I look at the people in my country and think: are they truly happy? On the surface, they seem to have everything. A good degree, a secure job, regular holidays, a beautiful house, expensive cars… but what really lies beneath this facade of “having it all?” Is it a sad teenage girl who has been forced to give up dancing to study medicine by her parents? Or is it a brokenhearted young man whose marriage is on the rocks as he never had time away from work to see his wife? Is it a middle-aged woman battling infertility because she could not sacrifice her career or afford to raise a child when she was younger? Or perhaps it is a frail elderly gentleman, living everyday in regret of all the things he never got to do in his health and youth.
God never created mankind to work. When He made Adam and Eve, He created them to glorify Him and for them to enjoy Him forever. Labour only came into the picture later as a punishment for man’s defiance and sin. Nevertheless, as fallen human beings, we have naturally gotten this order of things wrong AGAIN. In our world today, we try and glorify ourselves through work, and perceive God’s friendship as a ball and chain that we would rather do without.
Work should be a means to an end, not an end in itself. Do not let it consume you.
There is more to life than this.
Another friend posted this on his wall on facebook:
Man: What surprises you most about mankind?
God: That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up, and then long to be children again. That they lose their health to make money, and then lose their money to restore their health. That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present such that they live neither in the present nor the future. That they live as if they will never die and die as though they never lived.
I pray that I will not live such a foolish, contradictory life.