Sunday’s Wisdom #361: Valuable Work

“Sailing a boat cannot be hard.”

“If it wasn’t hard, then why would sailors exist? Why would ships need crews?”

– Isaac & the Captain, Castlevania
Season 3, Episode 2, “The Reparation of My Heart”

The complete context of this snippet of conversation involves the very bored captain of a ship alleviating his boredom by persuading the young wizard, Isaac, to hire his ship for a journey instead of stealing same ship by killing the crew. It is well within Isaac’s power to simply take it, of course, as he is ruthless and commands a small army of deadly monsters. But, as the captain points out, if he did that, who would sail the ship? Isaac is confident he can figure out something which so many less-learned men can do. It can’t be hard. But the captain points out the above and, faced with this, Isaac concedes that he may have a point, which leads into the offering of coins, instead of threats, in exchange for the sailors’ skills.

Isaac has a great deal of knowledge, both scholarly and magical, which most people don’t even bother to think about. But the captain has knowledge of his own, more grounded in the practical realities of life instead of the more esoteric matters of magic. He knows his trade from experience, he knows the many nuanced, practical aspects of maintaining and using a ship, of governing his crew, of navigating the seas, and most of all, at the moment, he knows the value of what he knows.

Wise and formidable indeed is the person who know the value of what they can do.

It is not always an easy thing, to see the necessity or luxury that one fills with one’s role, one’s job, and one’s acquired skills. But every job we do exists for a reason. Understand that reason, understand one’s value, and one gains just a little bit of leverage in the great contest of society.

Many jobs, and the people who fill them, are looked down on by others. This is foolish, even stupid and short-sighted. It takes an especially unwise person to not value the contributions made by farmers, sailors, fishermen, janitors, sewage workers, construction workers, masons, miners, blacksmiths, electricians, and other workers which, really, sustain the life, comfort, cleanliness, and order of our world. Indeed, I have found that, the lower you go on the totem pole, the more useful the job really is. Even baggers at the market enhance the smooth, swift flow of customers through the lines, creating a better experience and a better work environment.

And every such job is difficult in its own way. It can technically be done by anyone, but it takes experience, intelligence, and effort to see it done well, as good as it can possibly be done, better than anyone who’s never done the job before can do it.

Now, of course not all jobs are equal. Some jobs involve endangering oneself, practically running through the jaws of death itself, and saving lives, plucking others from those same jaws. But the fact that a job, any job, exists in the first place means that there is a demand for it, some sort of need to be filled, and thus, it has value. As does the person who does the job.

It is a shame that so many people – both those who look down on others from so-called “higher” stations, as well as those who do these jobs and look down on themselves – do not realize that value.

I once commented on an equality found in death. But I think, individual circumstances notwithstanding, we need to remember the equality found in life, too. We all must eat, drink, and sleep to live, and think, and work, and play to live well, and serve with love to live happily. There is something necessary to each of us. When any of us suffer, so do we all. We suffer much when we forget to value ourselves and others, and forget the value of what we can do, of the roles we can fill.

I believe Shakespeare once put it, “Whate’er thou art, act well thy part.”

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