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A Good Enough Reason for Doing Anything for a Living

A few months ago I wrote the following about how to justify working in finance: “Some people have jobs that very clearly benefit humanity: doctors, dentists, nurses, shoemakers, food-growers, artists, musicians, and so on. Those of us in love with or forced to practice occupations that are less directly related to human happiness other than our own need some justification for what we do. For me, that justification, when I can convince myself of it, is a little abstract: I think that in whatever field you’re in, there’s some long-term virtue in perceiving the world as honestly and accurately as possible.”

Last night I came across a much better way of putting it. I was reading an article by Milan Kundera on the novel in a magazine called Tin House. He begins by describing how Flaubert’s Madame Bovary was criticized when it first appeared as being unconsoling and full of desolation. Why, George Sand asked him, does he hide the feeling he has for his characters?

Kundera writes: Flaubert replies that he does not write his novels to communicate his judgments to readers. He is after something entirely different: “I have always tried to get into the soul of things.”

I think it’s a good enough reason for anyone doing whatever they do, provided they make that effort.

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