BBC Radio 4 - Thought for the Day
29th September 1999
Good morning. With the turn of the Millennium, it’s hard for a politician presenting future plans to resist labelling them as a vision of life in the 21st Century. That’s how, the chancellor, Gordon Brown, described his goal of full employment for the country through job opportunities for everyone.
Besides the standing ovation in Bournemouth, I think Mr Brown would have been applauded also by Vyas, a renowned Hindu writer of ancient India. Vyas penned a comment several thousand years ago, that, in the future, a man would be called a hero if he can just maintain his own family.
When jobs are scarce, practically any job is better than nothing. But, “ideally”, says Vyas, “we will be more satisfied if our occupation corresponds to our psychological and physical natures.” I think he would have liked the simplest of all career advice. “Understand what you want to do – then get someone to pay you for doing it.”
Unemployment, can bring with it a lack not just of income, but also of self-worth, esteem and identity. One of the ways we may seek to find ourselves is through our occupation. But, the Hindu scripture, Bhagavad-gita, warns that having a selfish attitude to work closes us off from self-discovery.
In Hindu terms, “who we are” is defined by the relationships we have with others in society. Relationships invariably entail responsibilities. At work, we relate to employer, colleagues, & customers and there are responsibilities towards each of them. An employer may list these as, say, productivity, efficiency, trustworthiness, but that, according to Vyas, misses the point.
Vyas suggests that whoever we are and whatever we do the over-riding responsibility should be to serve others through our chosen career. This idea that work is essentially service to society may sound obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to overlook, especially if our only consideration of work is that it puts bread on the table.
I hope our politicians realise that the goal of full employment is more than just trying to squeeze people into any old job. It’s helping them to find one they enjoy. However, the next level of job satisfaction is up to ourselves. It comes when we honestly endeavour to serve the needs of all those who are touched by our work.
Vyas says we can go even further. “Who gave us our abilities in the first place? Who provides all the ingredients and produce we rely on?” If job satisfaction can be increased by recognising how we can serve others, then how much more can be gained when we add a desire to please the Supreme Employer as part of our work objective.© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4