In the excerpt below, how does Thomas Carlyle define work?"For there is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in Work. Were he never so benighted, forgetful of his high calling, there is...

In the excerpt below, how does Thomas Carlyle define work?

"For there is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in Work. Were he never so benighted, forgetful of his high calling, there is always hope in a man that actually and earnestly works: in Idleness alone is there perpetual despair. Work, never so Mammonish, mean, is in communication with Nature; the real desire to get Work done will itself lead one more and more to truth, to Nature's appointments and regulations, which are truth."

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The 19th-century British writer Thomas Carlyle once discussed work in the following terms:

". . . there is a perennial nobleness, and even sacredness, in Work. Were he never so benighted, forgetful of his high calling, there is always hope in a man that actually and earnestly works: in Idleness alone is there perpetual despair. Work, never so Mammonish, mean, is in communication with Nature; the real desire to get Work done will itself lead one more and more to truth, to Nature's appointments and regulations, which are truth."

This excerpt suggests that engaging in labor is one of the highest and loftiest of all of humanity’s undertakings. Carlyle argues that a person who is willing to work, no matter how many shortcomings that person may have or how many misfortunes he may suffer, has reason to hope (and perhaps provoke hope in others). A worker always has at least the potential to do good and to do well. In contrast, the person who is unwilling to work leads a hopeless existence. He has no potential of reaching any achievements. (He may also create despair in those who look upon him.)

Anyone who is willing to work is in contact with Nature – with what is basic and fundamental about human beings and about existence.  A desire for work need not be associated with a mere desire for money or need not be considered ignoble. By wanting to work, and also by working, a person slowly discovers the real nature of things – the ways things are meant to be. A person who does not work, on the other hand, never has a chance to make such discoveries.

It is not surprising that Carlyle is considered one of the great intellectual figures of Victorian Britain. The Victorian era was a period in which work was celebrated and in which the so-called “Protestant work ethic” was a basic feature of social and moral life.

 

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