Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Work we Must, but the Lunch is Free

May 31st, 2017 by Zen

Vader’s recent post on agency and education got me thinking about one of my favorite books, Approaching Zion, by the inestimable Hugh Nibley, and in particular, the chapter entitled Work we must, but the Lunch is Free. 

Imagine this world is our education, our school and that lunch is merely those we need to live.

We have been permitted to come here to go to school, to acquire certain knowledge and take a number of tests to prepare us for greater things hereafter. This whole life, in fact, is “a state of probation” (2 Nephi 2:21). While we are at school our generous patron has provided us with all the necessities of living which we will need to carry us through. Imagine then that at the end of the first school year your kind benefactor pays the school a visit. He meets you and asks you how you are doing. “Oh,” you say, “I am doing very well, thanks to your bounty.” “Are you studying a lot?” “Yes, I am making good progress.” “What subjects are you studying?” “Oh, I am studying courses in how to get more lunch.” “You study that? All the time?” “Yes. I thought of studying some other subjects. Indeed I would love to study them–some of them are so fascinating!–but after all it’s the bread–and–butter courses that count. This is the real world, you know. There is no free lunch.” “But my dear boy, I’m providing you with that right now.” “Yes, for the time being, and I am grateful–but my purpose in life is to get more and better lunches; I want to go right to the top–the executive suite, the Marriott lunch.” “But that is not the work I wanted you to do here,” says the patron. “The question in our minds ought to be,” says Brigham Young, “what will advance the general interests … and increase intelligence in the minds of the people[?] To do this should be our constant study in preference to how shall we secure that farm or that garden [i.e., where the lunch comes from!]. . . . We cannot worship our God in public meeting or kneel down to pray in our families without the images of earthly possessions rising up in our minds to distract them and make our worship and our prayers unprofitable.” Lunch can easily become the one thing the whole office looks forward to all morning: a distraction, a decoy–like sex, it is a passing need that can only too easily become an engrossing obsession. Brigham says, “It is a folly for a man to love? Any other kind of property and possessions. One that places his affections upon such things does not understand that they are made for the comfort of the creature, and not for his adoration. They are made to sustain and preserve the body while procuring the knowledge and wisdom that pertain to God and his kingdom [the school motif], in order that we may preserve ourselves, and live forever in his presence.”

An Education focused on Money (Lunch) is really missing the point.

Comments (5)
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May 31st, 2017 00:53:02

May 31, 2017

This particular essay bothered me for a long time when I read it years ago. Not because I disagreed – I loved it. It is just a hard balance to figure out. I love education for education’s sake. I loved school. And I always disliked those kids that were only interested in learning things that would help them make money. Then I went to law school, which is filled with kids that only want to learn things because it will help them make money – it is a trade school, after all. So I disliked them and prided myself on being interested in the study of law for wisdom’s sake. But those professors who spent their whole career on theory without teaching any practical skills really bothered me too. I graduated from law school without knowing how to draft a complaint or an answer. I didn’t know how to file a pleading in court. All kinds of things that a lawyer needs to do all the time – they weren’t taught in school. So where is the sweet spot? I don’t want education that is merely an instrument for making money. I don’t want education to be mere theory that doesn’t have any practical application.

May 31, 2017

I read somewhere about how someone pursued geology…. So he could learn about … making planets.

I think biology, chemistry, astrophysics and cosmology would also fit that bill.

May 31, 2017

It isn’t that Lunch (the material things of this world) is bad, or that seeking it is bad. Adam was given a job of farming. Getting our hands dirty and working up an honest sweat is a part of life.

But, given a choice between more than we really need, and the other good things God offers us, what do we really want? I have to work 40 or more hours a week, like any other working guy, but given the choice, what would we do?
What would we study?

May 31, 2017

If K-12 was a truly rigorous general education, then specializing for your higher ed experience would be just fine.

June 1, 2017

@Zen: ” but given the choice, what would we do?
What would we study?”
I have thought about this off and on several times. Art, Theater, Literature, Astronomy? But we have to make a living, so we just have hobbies.

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