Lesson Thirteen Work
Whether work should be placed among the causes of happiness or among the causes of unhappiness may perhaps be regarded as a doubtful question.
There is certainly much work which is exceedingly irksome， and an excess of work is always very painful.
I think， however， that， provided work is not excessive in amount， even the dullest work is to most people less painful than idleness.
There are in work all grades， from mere relief of tedium up to the profoundest delights， according to the nature of the work and the abilities of the worker.
Most of the work that most people have to do is not in itself interesting， but even such work has certain great advantages.
To begin with， it fills a good many hours of the day without the need of deciding what one shall do. Most people， when they are left free to fill their own time according to their own choice， are at a loss to think of anything sufficiently pleasant to be worth doing.
And whatever they decide on， they are troubled by the feeling that something else would have been pleasanter.
To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization， and at present very few people have reached this level.
Moreover the exercise of choice is in itself tiresome.
Except to people with unusual initiative it is positively agreeable to be told what to do at each hour of the day， provided the orders are not too unpleasant.
Most of the idle rich suffer unspeakable boredom as the price of their freedom from drudgery.
At times they may find relief by hunting big game in Africa， or by flying round the world， but the number of such sensations is limited， especially after youth is past.
Accordingly the more intelligent rich men work nearly as hard as if they were poor， while rich women for the most part keep themselves busy with innumerable trifles of whose earthshaking importance they are firmly persuaded.
Work therefore is desirable， first and foremost， as a preventive of boredom， for the boredom that a man feels when he is doing necessary though uninteresting work is as nothing in comparison with the boredom that he feels when he has nothing to do with his days.
With this advantage of work another is associated， namely that it makes holidays much more delicious when they come. Provided a man does not have to work so hard as to impair his vigor， he is likely to find far more zest in his free time than an idle man could possibly find.
The second advantage of most paid work and of some unpaid work is that it gives chances of success and opportunities for ambition.
In most work success is measured by income and while our capitalistic society continues， this is inevitable.
It is only where the best work is concerned that this measure ceases to be the natural one to apply.
The desire that men feel to increase their income is quite as much a desire for success as for the extra comforts that a higher income can procure.
However dull work may be， it becomes bearable if it is a means of building up a reputation， whether in the world at large or only in one's own circle.
Continuity of purpose is one of the most essential ingredients of happiness in the long run， and for most men this comes chiefly through their work.
In this respect those women whose lives are occupied with housework are much less fortunate than men， or than women who work outside the home.
The domesticated wife does not receive wages， has no means of bettering herself， is taken for granted by her hu and （who sees practically nothing of what she does）， and is valued by him not for her housework but for quite other qualities.
Of course this does not apply to those women who are sufficiently well-to-do to make beautiful houses and beautiful gardens and become the envy of their neighbors； but such women are comparatively few， and for the great majority housework cannot bring as much satisfaction as work of other kinds brings to men and to professional women.
The satisfaction of killing time and of affording some outlet， however modest， for ambition， belongs to most work， and is sufficient to make even a man whose work is dull happier on the average than a man who has no work at all. But when work is interesting， it is capable of giving satisfaction of a far higher order than mere relief from tedium.
The kinds of work in which there is some interest may he arranged in a hierarchy. I shall begin with those which are only mildly interesting and end with those that are worthy to absorb the whole energies of a great man.
Two chief elements make work interesting： first， the exercise of skill， and second， construction.
Every man who has acquired some unusual skill enjoys exercising it until it has become a matter of course， or until he can no longer improve himself.
This motive to activity begins in early childhood： a boy who can stand on his head becomes reluctant to stand on his feet.
A great deal of work gives the same pleasure that is to be derived from games of skill.
The work of a lawyer or a politician must contain in a more delectable form a great deal of the same pleasure that is to be derived from playing bridge.
Here of course there is not only the exercise of skill but the outwitting of a skilled opponent.
Even where this competitive element is absent， however， the performance of difficult feats is agreeable.
A man who can do stunts in an aero——plane finds the pleasure so great that for the sake of it he is willing to risk his life.
I imagine that an able surgeon， in spite of the painful circumstances in which his work is done， derives satisfaction from the exquisite precision of his operations.
The same kind of pleasure， though in a less intense form， is to be derived from a great deal of work of a humbler kind.
All skilled work can be pleasurable， provided the skill required is either variable or capable of indefinite improvement.
If these conditions are absent， it will cease to be interesting when a man has acquired his maximum skill.
A man who runs three-mile races will cease to find pleasure in this occupation when he passes the age at which he can beat his own previous record.
Fortunately there is a very considerable amount of work in which new circumstances call for new skill and a man can go on improving， at any rate until he has reached middle age.
In some kinds of skilled work， such as politics， for example， it seems that men are at their best between sixty and seventy， the reason being that in such occupations a wide experience of other men is essential.
For this reason successful politicians are apt to be happier at the age of seventy than any other men of equal age.
Their only competitors in this respect are the men who are the heads of big businesses.
There is， however， another element possessed by the best work， which is even more important as a source of happiness than is the exercise of skill. This is the element of constructiveness.
In some work， though by no means in most， something is built up which remains as a monument when the work is completed.
We may distinguish construction from destruction by the following criterion.
In construction the initial state of affairs is comparatively haphazard， while the final stale of affairs embodies a purpose. In destruction the reverse is the case； the initial stale of affairs embodies a purpose， while the final state of affairs is haphazard， that is to say， all that is intended by the destroyer is to produce a state of affairs which does not embody a certain purpose.
This criterion applies in the most literal and obvious case， namely the construction and destruction of buildings.
In constructing a building a previously made plan is carried out， whereas in destroying it no one decides exactly how the materials are to lie when the demolition is completed.
Destruction is of course necessary very often as a preliminary to subsequent construction， in that case it is part of a whole which is constructive.
But not infrequently a man will engage in activities of which the purpose is destructive without regard to any construction that may come after. Frequently he will conceal this from himself by the belief that he is only sweeping sway in order to build afresh， but it is generally possible to unmask this pretense， when it is a pretense， by asking him what the subsequent construction is to he. On this subject it will be found that he will speak vaguely and without enthusiasm， whereas on the preliminary destruction he has spoken precisely and with zest.
This applies to not a few revolutionaries and militarists and other apostles of violence.
They are actuated， usually without their own knowledge， by hatred： the destruction of what they hate is their real purpose， and they are comparatively indifferent to the question what is to come after it.
Now I cannot deny that in the work of destruction as in the work of construction there may be joy.
It is a fiercer joy， perhaps at moments more intense， but it is less profoundly satisfying， since the result is one in which little satisfaction is to be found.
You kill your enemy， and when he is dead your occupation is gone， and the satisfaction that you derive from victory quickly fades.
The work of construction， on the other hand， when completed， is delightful to contemplate， and moreover is never so fully completed that there is nothing further to do about it.
The most satisfactory purposes are those that lead on indefinitely from one success to another without ever coming to a dead end； and in this respect it will be found that construction is a greater source of happiness than destruction.
Perhaps it would be more correct to say that those who find satisfaction in construction find in it greater satisfaction than the lovers of destruction can find in destruction， for if once you have become filled with hate you will not easily derive from construction the pleasure which another man would derive from it.