Why Would a 21 Year Old Be Interested in A Life’s Work?

Haroon Butt is a frequent commenter on the A Life’s Work blog, so I asked him to write something about why he keeps coming back to this blog. Here was his response.

Why do I keep coming back here?

David Licata is a friend of mine, yes, and yes I come back here because I am interested in what friends are up to. But there’s something different about A Life’s Work that attracts me. When I read this blog, I am not so much reading about the lives of Paolo Soleri, Jill Tarter, Rob Darden or David Milarch, but I am reading into my own life. I am a college student, entering my senior year at American University in Washington DC. It’s safe to say that pretty soon, I will have to decide my own path in life. Will I join the multitudes of people in office jobs? Will I become a secret agent? Will I become an architect, archivist, astronomer or tree farmer? What will I do?

That question has become the staple conversation amongst my peers. When I was in middle school, the question was “what high school I will be going to?” In high school it was “what college will you go to?” In college, it’s “what are you majoring in?” Now, at the cusp of completion, it’s “what will you do?” I don’t know. I have the freedom to do what I please, but with freedom comes the loss of direction. There are so many turns I can make, and each turn will determine the course of the rest of my life, or at least a huge chunk of it.

I feel that the movie speaks to us college/post-college folk very strongly. As we embark on our own “life’s work,” we seek stories that will help us along, give us some sort of guidance. The wisdom of others is what shapes our decisions. As the anxiety of entering the real world kicks in, the subjects of this film remind me that it’s not what I do that matters, but how much work, dedication, and love I put into it. If I devote myself entirely to something I believe in, my life will have meaning. What I do may seem insignificant on a cosmic level, but on a human level everything I do is significant. David Milarch has cloned a tree. Hundreds of years later, that tree will still be alive, providing shelter, food and oxygen for a future life to exist. If we ever find extraterrestrial life, it will undoubtedly be because Jill Tarter and the people at the SETI Institute laid the groundwork for scientific searching of the cosmos. Paolo Soleri’s legacy will live on through Arcosanti and his books, whether the structure is completed in his lifetime or not. The spirit that the black gospel musicians brought to their songs will be preserved and remembered because of Robert Darden’s work. And now all of these lives will be documented and preserved because of the work of David Licata. Everything creates a story, a history, and from history we learn and improve ourselves and move onwards.

So why do I keep coming back here? Is it reassurance that the next step in my life will be enjoyable and significant? Is it inspiration for me to create my own life’s work? Or is it motivation for me to get moving and get working, on something, anything? It’s probably a combination of all three, and the message of the film has inspired/motivated/reassured me to embark and create my own “life’s work.” How funny, and fitting, though that an architect, an astronomer, an archivist, and a tree farmer have inspired a filmmaker to make a movie, and in turn has inspired a college student to create a life for himself? Every little thing counts.

Thanks, Haroon.