Thoreau- Working for passion

Henry Thoreau

Life without Principle

The aim of the laborer should be, not to get his living, to get “a good job,” but to perform well a certain work; and, even in a pecuniary sense, it would be economy for a town to pay its laborers so well that they would not feel that they were working for low ends, as for a livelihood merely, but for scientific, or even moral ends. Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it (pg. 2018).

According to Thoreau one of the aims of the laborer should be to work doing something you love, not something you just do for the money. This raises the question that every college student faces: what do I want to do with my life? This is a question we have all struggled to answer, and ideally the answer that we come up with is similar to what Thoreau advises; follow a passion. Unfortunately the reality is that many of us do not end up with jobs where we work for love and not for money.

A point that Thoreau makes is that employers should only hire people who love their jobs and employees should be paid well. If only more managers in the world thought like Thoreau, maybe we would all make little more money, and have to deal with grumpy employees a lot less.

Later on starts talking about “community”, but I struggled with this section,

The community has no bribe that will tempt a wise man. You man raise money enough to tunnel a mountain, but you cannot raise money enough to hire a man who is minding his own business. An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pay him for it or not (pg 2018).

Before this he was talking about workers doing what they love, employers hiring only people who love the work, and employers paying people better, but here it sounds like Thoreau is talking about possible free services. That is, one can’t raise enough money to hire a man who has other work that he loves to do. When Thoreau says “An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pay him for it or not (pg 2018)” Is he saying that an efficient and valuable man will do what he can with a job, whether or not he gets paid? This seems to be slightly contradictory to what Thoreau was saying earlier.

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2 thoughts on “Thoreau- Working for passion

  1. Hi Emily, I think you pose a relevant question at the end of your passage here; actually when I first read Thoreau’s section on “the aim of the laborer” and then, in your post, this section about community and the man who will work without money or not…. I was stumped a bit, too, at what Thoreau is trying to convey. But from what I can discern from this juxtaposition is that Thoreau is emphasizing the importance of passion and direction in one’s work; the man who has a solidified purpose in his work, and “who is minding his own business,” completing and attempting his tasks regardless if he’s getting any outside incentive for it, is the man who ought to be valued and paid in the community’s workforce. Thoreau seems to value those people who are endowed with such a deep belief in their work that they return to it again and again, money or not.

  2. Hi Emily! i agree with your statement that now we are faced with the problem where we are not paid enough to work jobs we are passionate about. It is unfortunate that more employers do not see the value of hiring workers who want to be there, if they did I am sure they would be willing to pay their employees a little more. Employers need to understand that workers who are passionate about what they are doing are more efficent because they are not doing it for money alone.

    “The community has no bribe that will tempt a wise man. You man raise money enough to tunnel a mountain, but you cannot raise money enough to hire a man who is minding his own business. An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pay him for it or not (pg 2018).” I think this passage is inteneded to tell us that a wise man performs a job they love over a well paying job that pays more. He is trying to say that employers (the community) can raise enought money to create things like roads through a mountain, but they can not raise enough money to pay a man who is “minding his own business,” meaning his own business is whatever he is passionate about. He is trying to say that a valuable man is not going to settle for a job the community can pay him for, he is going to stick to doing what he is passionate about.

    That might be way off but thats how I perceived it.

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