Effort and Life

“Effort, we say, is what is valuable; but — and this is the paradox which besets us — it is valuable only if it is not valued. Just as when we make pleasure our end we find that nothing pleases, so if we make effort our aim we find that no effort satisfies. First and foremost we must desire things, both material and spiritual, and strive to obtain them; on reflection we may admit, and as philosophers we must insist, that it was not what we wanted that mattered, but the efforts made to get it; yet if such an admission were entertained for one moment in the heat of the struggle, it would blight our endeavors and take all the savour from our success. We must, in a word, be busy, not because busyness is a good, but because (and this is what we may not realize at the time) it is the condition of all other goods being added to us; so true it is that the only way to avoid being miserable is not to have leisure enough to know whether you are happy or not.”

C.E.M. Joad, The Future of Life: A Theory of Vitalism (London: G.P. Putnam, 1928), 167-8.

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2 Responses to “Effort and Life”

  1. S'Mat! Says:

    Absolutely perfect!

    And timely. I’ve been unemployed for so long, that when typing the word ‘work’ in an email a few minutes ago, it looked so imminently alien, that i had to look it up to make sure it wasn’t in some Tolkien bestiary.

  2. The Necromancer Says:

    Well, some hobbits would take this to heart. Others, not so much…

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