Posts Tagged ‘Book of Job’

My book of job(s)

October 19, 2010

It’s absurd to compare a midlife career crossroads with the sufferings of the Bible’s most tormented man. So I won’t. 

But when have I ever been able to resist a bad pun? 

Though far from tormented, I’m feeling a decent amount of confusion around my next job – in particular, around what I would like it to be. 

My problem isn’t the recession, or being turned down for job after job. I’m not even at that point yet. My problem is that I don’t really know what I’m looking for. 

Not newspapers, but what?

I do know that I’m done with newspapers. And I don’t have the stomach for the constant marketing and insecurity that are part of being a freelance writer. But beyond that… I’m not sure. 

  • I’m not sure, at this point in my life, whether to approach job-hunting with a Long-Term Career Goal. Do I want to work my way up to the top of xxx to do yyy?  Or should I look for something that is simply fun and interesting for a while? And then find something that is also fun and interesting but totally different?  
  • I’m not sure whether to work for a business or a non-profit. I’ve always needed to feel that I’m helping make the world a little better – tikkun olam and all that. But after decades with newspapers and non-profits, I’m attracted to the idea of working for an organization that doesn’t make you buy your own pencils. And living on the edge of Silicon Valley all these years, I wonder if there is a bright, shiny cutting-edge world there that I should experience.  
  • I’m not sure what I want to do all day. I like writing. I like working with people. My ideal job would include some of each. But what does that translate into as a job title or category? There’s the broad function of “communications” within organizations. But what does that boil down to on a daily basis? And would I like it?  
  • I don’t have my heart set on any particular industry. The career-mentor folks I’ve spoken with have said, “Sure, I can give you some leads. But first decide what industry you want to focus on.” Okay, I do have an interest in renewable energy and green technologies. But beyond that – honestly, it’s more important for me to be around smart folks and do interesting, useful stuff than to be in any particular industry. 

Yikes! Too many open questions. And this is before I even approach the nattering voices of self-doubt (“English major with no skills!”) or the practical questions of how to retool my resume, present my strengths etc.

The Bible’s Job is given advice by three friends when he can’t understand why he is being hammered with so much misery. What I’m trying to do right now is talk with former reporters and other acquaintances in different kinds of jobs to see what their work life is like – informational interviews. 

Amazingly, this is the first time since graduating from college that I’ve faced such a wide-open, anything-goes career crossroads. 

For about 25 years, I was pretty well ensconced in journalism, and opportunities presented themselves. Now I’m not ensconced in anything… and I have to make my own opportunities. 

After figuring out where I want to make them.

Let’s keep God out of Haiti

January 27, 2010

It’s felt strange to continue posting about personal matters like studying  Hebrew while the whole world is focused on the devastation in Haiti. But honestly, I haven’t felt like I’ve had anything to add to the chorus of horror, sympathy and analysis. There are plenty of people with more experience and knowledge than me who are writing about Haiti. 

But I did want to weigh in on one small point – God and Haiti. 

There have been all sorts of sound bites and stories trying to connect God with Haiti’s tragedy. On the crudest and most repulsive level, there was Pat Robertson’s now-infamous comment that Haitians brought their suffering on themselves by making a pact with the devil to win independence from France back around 1800. 

On a more thoughtful level, people have raised the classic question that goes from the Book of Job up through the Holocaust – how could a just God allow this kind of tragedy to hit innocent people who were already among the poorest on the planet? 

But I don’t see the Haiti disaster as something that God is responsible for, either actively or passively. 

To me, the most telling fact to me was presented by David Brooks in a New York Times column: The size of the Haiti quake was almost identical to the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in San Francisco. 

Yet in San Francisco, just 63 people were killed, while in Haiti the death toll is estimated in the hundreds of thousands. 

The quake was so devastating precisely because of Haiti’s history of underdevelopment and poverty. The country and its people continue to suffer from a legacy that includes slavery; neo-colonialism; alternating bursts of military intervention and neglect by the U.S.; and local ruling elites characterized by greed, despotism and viciousness. 

With that history of oppression and poverty, of course they didn’t have adequate building codes. Of course they didn’t spend money on well-built housing, schools or hospitals. Of course they didn’t have all the emergency equipment and systems in place that we do in the Bay Area. 

It doesn’t seem like rocket science to understand that “natural” disasters are particularly disastrous when they occur in poor, underdeveloped countries. 

And we’re going to see a lot more such disasters over the next century due to climate change – as it hits Third World countries that don’t have the resources to build things like seawalls and desalination plants, or relocate their populations, or diversify their economic base. 

Geological forces – not God — created the quake in Haiti. Human forces – not God — created a society that would be particularly devastated by it.

And we humans have an obligation not only to provide emergency aid when a once-in-a-century disaster strikes — but to foster just, democratic and economically viable societies that can ensure decent lives for all their people, all the time.

So let’s keep God out of the Haiti discussion. 

Except to the extent that God — or the universe, or nature (take your pick of whichever concept works for you) — gives us humans the intelligence and power to take care of each other.

And along with that, gives us a moral obligation to do so.