Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 22

The other day I got an email from an old friend from Korea. He left the peninsula a few years ago and decided to head to grad school for History. Unfortunately, his luck wasn't great as the recession hit at about the same time he finished school. He's not alone though. I have tons of friends who opted for grad school only to graduate with debt and no job options as this recession putters along. My wife and I had planned on returning to the US at the end of 2008, but the won to dollar exchange rate plummeted and has yet to recover to its 2007 levels. Luckily, I have a decent job right now that takes care of my needs, but I am nothing more than an asshole's decision away from becoming redundant. This is not the life that I want. 

I told you about my friend from Korea because the rest of his email illustrates a good point and one that Ham Seon-heon made in his teachings. If my friend doesn't land a good gig at a university, school or company (which is his goal), he said that he could always pick up his tools and find work in a garage somewhere. It might not be perfect, but it's an option. And while he can get fired from that job for a variety of reasons, the amount of stress from such a position would be much lower than, say, in an office setting. 

I'd recommend that everyone takes some time are listen to this talk that Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe gives on, well, dirty jobs. (Transcript here)

I remember the first time I saw Dirty Jobs. I thought to myself, "Man, those guys have awful lives." That was such flawed thinking. At this point in my life, I can admit that I have been snobby for most of it and I can also admit that that snobbishness was 100% unfounded and has actually made me a less interesting and well-rounded person than I could have been. I quit the Scouts because my Scout Master actually made me do work. In Cub Scouts, my father and I called in a ringer to make my Pinewood Derby car for me because our first-year attempt proved to be embarrassing. I cared only about winning the damn trophy (which I did for "Most Original" ironically). In fact, I used to get my young Korean students to pay closer attention to my lessons by threatening them with the possibility that they will end up as mechanics, bus drivers, firemen or farmers

Now, if I need to earn money, I pretty much have to rely on other people. I have alienated myself from the most basic human trait of self-reliance and by doing so, I can only earn money if other people are willing to pay for my services. This--to me--sounds counter-evolutionary. Ham Seok-heon said the following when asked about work and the rising corporate culture:
Handiwork is better. Maybe it is not possible to get rid entirely of the machine. But you can follow the principle, try to live a simple life.
He's right. I need to take myself out of the system. I don't need my family to be reliant on a boss or a whim or a downsize. They need to rely on me and I need to rely on myself. Maybe it's not handiwork at this point, but there are ways that I can always ensure that I will be the master of my own fate. It just takes some time to think and sort out the details and even though I'll be done  with Quakerism in about a week, I still have plenty of time to work this out. 


  1. You have my attention....I am curious to hear the next step!

  2. So that explains what happened with Scouts!