Post Classifieds

How do you do?

By Phil Chevalier
On September 7, 2011

T he well-known plight of every humanities major revolves around the question, "What are you going to do with that?" If we answered honestly, we would only need one finger. So instead, we often lie. The question serves as a sort of inside joke for people with more "practical" majors. They revel in the spot it puts us humanities majors in. Unless, that is, if the answer we give them is "I plan to go to law school," or "I plan to get my Ph.D." Providing

these types of answers seems to earn you a conciliatory nod of approval; they reassure you, ever so subtly, that you are one of the "accepted ones." I know this because I have offered both of those answers and have choked on the implicit condescension of their  responses. The truth is, I have chosen not to choose my path at this time, and I'd appreciate some patience in that respect. I gave up the idea of a concrete future the moment I started to care about certain things and proceeded to study them here. Frankly, the fact that anyone seems so sure about his or

her own career path worries me. One problem is that only certain people with certain majors are allowed to ask the question at all. This is because the idea of practicality is the very basis for their field of study. In that sense, it seems ridiculous to flip the question back on them. They don't even need to specify what they plan to do after college; their major is designed so that someone will hire them. Mine is not. I not only wish to flip this question

back on them, but to reclaim it altogether. The most important word in the question is perhaps also the most ambiguous one: do. To those who tend to ask it, this word is intimately tied with the idea of an occupation. They mean quite literally, "What will your job be?" The profoundly more important meaning for the word is far from their minds, because it has nothing to do with what a person's occupation will be. It refers instead to this tricky thing  called "the value  of one's actions." I know, now we're really gettin' crazy. People's occupations are incidental

when it comes to whatever they end up doing in this lifetime. One can only hope that the two can be successfully

combined. Of course, people can do a great deal through their occupation, whatever that may be. For example, people in positions of power are capable of effecting change to degrees that other people are not. That difference

is one of magnitude and reach, though, not quality or value. Even still, the question remains: does that change have any value? My brief point here is that the relationship between where someone works and the  meaningfulness of what he/she does is incidental,  and should be judged by different criteria. The point is not that having a good job and  doing meaningful things are mutually exclusive. We might say this: doing provides life with meaning;

working allows the means to that far greater end. Doing meaningful things in the world requires a degree of individual refinement , which itself requires a highly critical perspective. In the absence of that perspective,

an occupation can become a very dangerous thing. An accountant that doesn't discriminate between ethical and unethical employers could potentially make a good living as the bookkeeper for Enron. Move Over Ryan Ro n

Grethel Columnist A marketing specialist who only does what will drive profit for his employers most effectively will

earn their praise for constructing ads that drive a wedge between children and their parents, or that play deviously off of the most fragile human insecurities.  having "success" as a central goal seems to have the scary potential of making incredibly harmful actions seem occupational and therefore banal. This is the risk being run when we decide our course too early in life, before we realize that we're only allowed to do this whole thing once. "What are you going to do with that?" is perhaps the most important question we all could be asking each other. However, I can't think of a time I have heard it asked in a way that matters. It's not hard to understand why this is the case;

one simply needs to imagine a conversation between two people where what is being discussed are their truest and most hidden aspirations, and realize at once how uncomfortable such a thing would be. The next thought ought to be, "How very, very sad."

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