Step 1: Disentangle Meaning from Work
- Meaning is something you essentially are.
- Work is something you happen to do.
- What you essentially are is not what you happen to do.
- Therefore, meaning is not work.
- It follows immediately that work, of any kind, cannot be meaningful.
- It also follows immediately that “meaningful work” is an unintelligible neologism.
Step 2: Supply Definitions
- Meaning means being in contact with a greater reality.
- Work means applying deliberate, concerted efforts over a certain length of time in order to procure the means of survival (and perhaps then some) for me and mine (where mine could be “family,” “tribe,” etc.).
See that meaning is, at its heart, mystical or cosmological or metaphysical or theocentric.
See that work, at its heart, is mundane and diurnal.
For now, accept the dualism between meaning and work. Doing so enables you to, via Steps 1 and 2, disentangle yourself from the hegemony of Total Work.
Step 3: Explore Who You Really Are
Investigate who you truly are. Investigate the ultimate nature of reality. The path, insofar as there are “touches” of a greater reality along the way, is meaningful by definition and also in actual experience. (The definition is a linguistic bearer of actual experience.)
Step 4: Dial the Value of Work Way Down
Just see work, for the time being anyway (i.e., for quite some time), as that which supplies you with a livelihood. Hopefully, it sustains you and yours in a reasonable, decent way; hopefully, it is socially and ecologically beneficial; hopefully, it’s not onerous. But that’s it!
Live Steps 3 and 4 for a while. A long while. (The line below suggests that a lot of time has elapsed…)
Step 5: Nondual Realization
Let’s suppose that you wake up, in the Eastern sense, such that you know who are really are. Then what is directly, immediately clear to you?
Well, if meaning means being in touch with a greater reality, then it’s immediately clear to you that you are always in touch with this greater reality. You can’t not touch it! In which case, everything is meaningful. How wonderful!
The cosmic joke, then, is this implication: namely, that work is also meaningful! Wonderful!
But see this plainly. Work is as meaningful as going to the bathroom, as meaningful as breathing, as meaningful as anything whatsoever. Therefore, there is nothing “special” or “unique” about work!
Since “everything is meaningful” is ultimately true, this delightfully reveals the pointlessness of looking for meaningful or fulfilling work in the narrow, illusory sense. Sure, some forms of work are more interesting or beneficial than others. In which case, do them if you can. But no form of work sparkles with its own meaning–except insofar as everything sparkles with shared meaning!
Think clearly, investigate fully, and enjoy!