I was out last night with some friends at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck Pub. (Complete aside: It was really awesome, good wine, beer, food, and great live music.) Anyways our conversations ran a multitude of topics from tracing music history from the Ancient Greeks to Iron Maidens and Kansas to gun rights, concealed carry, self-defense all the way to hunting and fishing trips. It was a great conversation with plenty of participation and interest for all involved. But one thing we talked about really stuck out. When a girl that none of us really knew came and sat down one of the other girls asked her what was with her life. Which immeadiately led to a discussion about people asking about jobs.
What do you do for a living? This was by far the least favorite question. Those unemployed disliked having to admit that they didn’t have a job and those with jobs typically didn’t want to be defined by their job. As one of the guys said, “Work may be where I spend 60-80 hours a week, but it is not who I am.” This led to the discussion of why American’s feel like they must be defined by their job.
Some people are, I am a musician and therefore can be defined when I’m doing that as a musician, but right now I’m working as a grant writer. Grant writing is what I do, it isn’t who I am. It’s a question that never goes beyond the surface too, it asks about what you spend the majority of your time doing, without risking going deeper. Often, if a person ventures past a most basic summary of their job the original asker starts to tune out. So, in addition to being tied to a sense of worth the question also avoids real connections and maintains a certain sense of distance between the speakers. It allows a person to ask a question without either party having to risk actually relating with the other person.
This is a non-question question. It doesn’t really ask anything. It doesn’t relate. Which comes to the source of the problem. American’s are afraid to relate to one another. We’re afraid to know how similar we are to one another. We wear our differences like a badge of glory and honor, even as it keeps us from ever really making a difference or a change. Especially with the Presidential election coming up this fall, and the candidates all promising bi-partisan change it is important to realize that, until we as a people start to relate to one another, we will never be able to reach past our differences to change. Our differences are good, think about how boring the world would be if we all agreed on everything, they make us who we are, but unless we learn to relate them to one another, learn to actually care about one another, those differences will be the blocks that keep us from accomplishing the amazing things we are capable of.