Posts Tagged existentialism

Is your work meaningful?

sysiphus-tee-wht by fouro boros

Beware: worthless, pointless, trivial and futile activity ahead

Rachel Mulvey’s post last week on the existential nature of continuing professional development has turned my thoughts once again to the concept of meaningfulness.

Partly inspired by Rachel’s idea, I have been writing an article for the Journal of the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling on the use of narrative techniques in reflective practice for guidance practitioners (I know, exciting stuff, huh?). As part of my research for this piece I came across an article by W.D. Joske on Philosophy and the meaning of life’. Unlike many of the philosophy articles I’ve tried (and failed) to get to grips with, this was actually quite readable because Joske demonstrates a subtle, dry sense of humour in his writing.

…many people are afraid of philosophy precisely because they dread being forced to the horrifying conclusion that life is meaningless, so that human activities are ultimately insignificant, absurd and inconsequential

The world is neutral and cannot give meaning to men, If someone wants life to be meaningful he cannot discover that meaning but must provide it himself. How we go about giving meaning to life seems to depend upon the society we accept as our own; a Frenchman might leap into the dark, an American go to a psycho-analyst, and an Englishman cease asking embarrassing questions.

As well as being amusing, Joske is quite analytical and, in his attempt to explore meaning, he breaks down the meaninglessness of activities into four essential elements: worthlessness, pointlessness, triviality and futility.

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The Meaning Triangle

The search for infinity - Chris Halderman

In the search for meaning it is often helpful to carry a violin and wear a coat made of flames.

As the post on existentialism has been one of my most popular, I thought I would do something more on the subject of meaningfulness.

And when it comes to meaning, it seems that three is a magic number.

But first a short story (involving three workers)…

A traveller comes across a group of three men who are working hard smashing boulders with large hammers.

He asks them what they are doing.

The first man answers, ‘I’m using my strength and skill to make big rocks into small rocks.’

The second man answers, ‘I’m working to earn money so that I can feed and support my family.’

The third man answers, ‘I’m preparing the raw materials to build a cathedral for the glory of God.’

Which of these three men was doing the most meaningful work?

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Existential thoughts

Life in the room of confusion

Many of the modern career theories and approaches to guidance have moved away from the focus on objective measures of person-environment fit to an increasing emphasis on the importance of personal meaning within career choice.

But what about meaninglessness?

Shouldn’t we be looking at that too?

If we want to spend time pondering the essential pointlessness of all human activity, where better to go than existentialism?

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