On Doing the Most Important Thing

cross road

It may be considered a matter of the most ordinary wisdom, indeed of common sense, that given a choice between performing various tasks, we will choose to take up the most important ones first, and perhaps later select others too in terms of their considered importance. Yet in real life, how many decisions are really taken on this basis?

Given a choice between two or three jobs, for example, any person is more likely to look first and foremost at the salary/overall income/benefits and probably select the top-paying job on this consideration alone without looking at other factors. If at all other factors are considered, those concerning location, distance, convenience, job-security and prestige etc. may be considered. However the importance of the work may not get the due priority.

Moreover, there is the question—importance from which perspective, from what point of view? The person selecting the job may say that for me finding economic support for myself and my family is most important and so I select the most paying work, the work which gives the most income.

This seems fair enough, but a different question may be asked regarding relevance and importance from a social point of view. What is it that society needs the most? It is possible that society needs peace and justice the most. So has it been considered adequately how to contribute the most to peace and justice in one’s life?

The person who has happily made his choice based on income may consider this question absurd. He may counter question–How can I earn income and support myself by devoting myself to peace and justice? I have not found any job advertisements regarding like this at all!

This is an important point. There are so many jobs advertised which offer good salaries and income for jobs relating to production of weapons and for waging wars but very few, if any, jobs which would enable one to devote one’s life to peace.

Nevertheless, it will be very good for our troubled world if more people, and  particularly young people on the threshold of their life, start asking—what are the most important things for the welfare of this world and I would like to devote my life to some of these, to those which are best suited to my talents. Someone genuinely concerned about this youth, perhaps the youth’s own parents or other family members, may ask—but are you sure you will be able to earn your livelihood from this? It will be great to see the youth replying—first let me select the most important things I will like to do as this is the topmost priority and then I will also decide how I will also find a way of supporting myself and my near and dear ones while doing these most important things. I am strong enough for this. And then it will be very nice to see the youth saying-I am sure I will progress best in this way and I will get the most satisfaction in this way.

While decisions of youth regarding this are most important as they have the entire life ahead of them, of course such decisions are welcome at all stages of life. A journalist leaving a job in big media to devote time and talent to spreading more relevant ideas and information, a soldier seeking early retirement to start a peace program, an executive quitting a job in an agribusiness multinational to devote himself to eco-friendly farming—all these are examples of numerous decisions being made to devote oneself to what is really important and needed. However this is still only a trickle. The overall trend is still overwhelmingly in favor of narrow self-interests, more related to income and comforts.

This in turn is related to the narrow focus of the educational system on narrowly defined career pursuits, as distinct from the real needs of our troubled world. The value systems at family and community levels are also concerned with progress in a narrow sense. Due to the the ways in which economy and governance are organized, more jobs are generated and more lucrative careers are made in pursuits which may have more to do with the perpetuation of the world’s problems than with remedial actions.

Hence there is a clear need for more debate and discussion on the need for giving more attention to what are the real needs and priorities of the world in terms for resolving its biggest and most serious problems, and then on this basis deciding what are the most important tasks in the world and then finally deciding how we can link out life more closely with these most important tasks and challenges.

The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His more recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children and A Day in 2071.


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