When discussing work, the man-in-the-street, having pulled a stressful nine-to-five workday in the office, may feel that it is merely a Sisyphean to do list, an accursed drudgery to fill the waking hours. He suffers that he might work his way to a bigger house, a faster car, a better computer. Those not as fortunate to land jobs as pen pushers take on blue collar ones, which are menial in nature and exhaust them. They are the cleaners, the meat packers, the construction workers, who toil onerously their thankless task from dawn to dusk, working their fingers to the bone, all to put food on the table at the end of the day. In a society stratified by meritocracy, the migrant workers have it worse still. They travel across land and ocean in search of their livelihood, only to be seen as second class. But they shrug it off. Because when your family’s lives are dependent on the little you earn, you don’t think about what lies ahead. You just go.

In those situations and to those people, work is all about making a living. However, beyond the narrow third world perspective resides the reality of work to the privileged few. Such is their outlook on life that they are not troubled by the sapping power of work. Unlike the former, the latter lives to work, instead of working to live. Their ambition and goal dwarfs that of those who think work is all about living. I am no different- I too share in the belief that there is more to work than merely living for the next day. Work is not all about making a living.

Some people view their work as a higher cause. The humble dollar store shopkeeper although he is still making a living, serves the local neighbourhood by providing necessities cheaply and conveniently. In the same way the petrol kiosk attendant makes topping up the gas less of a hassle by doing it for the customer, even though the customer can easily do it himself. Every member of society is an important cog in the intricate system called Economy. Everyone has his role and has his place to serve, some as leaders, some as manufacturers, others as service providers. Work is more than making a living, it is also a service to others.

Yet to another group of people work is entirely unconcerned with remuneration. To the non-profit organisations, like aid relief and human rights watch groups, none of the ventures they embark on are moneymaking ones. To religious organisations, proselytising is their only goal. Moneymaking is not in the picture at all, their work is for the betterment of society in their eyes.

In various religions, work serves other purposes. For example, Christianity views work as mandated by God, and a way to keep from idleness, as “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. Here work becomes meaningful endeavour that occupies the time so that Man does not indulge in sinful pleasures even though his corrupted nature compels him to. Work is also counted for nothing unless it is for Godly purpose, as seen in the Book of Ecclesiastes of the Bible, which says that all pursuit of human goals is futile, for all things will pass away except for God. Therefore, work is not about making a living nor any human goal but for heavenly goals.

Though it is contentious, a belief about the health benefits of work persists. Some assert that it is a noticeable boon to mind and body. Once work ceases, the mind too ceases to be the sharp blade it once was, no longer efficient to deal with the daily problems that present themselves. The constant rigour the mind used to be put through kept it lively and astute, but disuse has made it dull. The same is said to go for the body, where the muscles degenerate if underutilised. They cite dementia and muscular atrophy as a proof of their claims. However, in this day and age, it is a Herculean task to find a job that is easy going enough not to cause more damage than aid to the body. Jobs these days tax the physical as well as the mental faculties beyond what they can bear safely, and do not help.

Of course, there is also the philosophical purpose of work. Consider the philosophy “I work, therefore I am.” Men work because they believe it is part of their identity. Take for example the Venetian Guilds of ages past. Through the high standards and nigh worshipful respect for their craft, their members made their work the centre of their lives and worked because that was what they were – carpenters, metal workers, mosaic painters – they were artisans, and their work was their pride and joy. Work was not about the material gain, it in itself was the object of desire.

Monty Oum, a supernal animator, renown in the industry for his superbly detailed scenes and their frenetically exciting action, dropped out of high school to pursue his dreams. His coworkers knew him as a workaholic, and his only complaint was that there never was enough time to work on all his projects. Steve Jobs, the genius behind the iPhone, had a single-minded devotion to his work, to the point where he even forsook time with his family on holidays to continue his work.

Indeed, work is not all about making a living. At the fundamental levels, money is the primary goal of work. However, there are many other goals beyond this one that surpass its worth, and in the end, material wealth counts for naught. Therefore, work is not all about making a living.