Jul 112003

We are what we do.

There are a few common things I teach students. One is the question:

What do you do?

This question, relying on the notion of the simple present tense to ask about regular (usually daily) habits requires us to define ourselves by our job. This is how we operate in Western Society. We are what we do.

The next question I sometimes teach is:

What do you like to do?

I say this is different because frequently we don’t like our job. I like my job, but in general we take up a hobby to pass the time from being the gristle on the barbecue of life.

The usual answer to this is:

I am a teacher.

So, here again we visit the verb to be. I exist as a teacher. What I do is what I am. When the Big Guy said “I am who I am.” (NKJV) he was really saying “I exist because of what I do.” Okay, so that might be a bit of a stretch. But I think the essence of it is there.

In Walden, by Henry Thoreau, he says:

All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.

What happens when we don’t have a job? Or not a full time or permanent job. There’s a word here which from which my nihon-go dictionary tells us:

furi-ta-: young people subsisting on part-time work (from freelance and arbeiter – German for worker); one whose livelihood is provided by part-time work;

These are the in-between people. I know, I’ve been there. I am there now. I have done that, and I will be doing it. And now, I have to go and do something else.