This is from a conversation with a collaborator on rsyslog, after his country was hit by a nature disaster. We went a bit philosophical, and I tried to explain how important I think it is to believe in your work and how I feel about cooperating. Again, that’s a previously unpublished bit that I thought is useful to be found (timestamp changed to original date).
To me, work (including rsyslog) is much more than just “doing something for a living”. Of course, that aspect is involved, I can’t deny that. But to be good at something, one must love what one does. So any work we conduct should ideally match our interests and be something we can be proud of (which also includes failing to deliver good work should make us ashamed and thus trying to fix the situation).
Not everything, even well done, is “good work”. Good work is work that benefits society at large. That doesn’t mean I need to be Einstein – every garbageman also provides a useful service to society (and should be proud in what he does, provided that he does it well). As a side-note, in that sense I do not see that any one work is more valuable than any other: people who try similarly hard to provide good service to society, each one with all the capabilities they have, deserve the same respect, no matter how large their contribution to society is being considered by other people. In fact, a highly educated scholar working on something light-hearted is in my opinion much less respectable than a garbageman who tries his very best in fulfilling his duties.
Having said that, I do not consider work to be something “external” to me. Instead, it is a very important part of my personality. Not the only one, and I don’t try to assign priorities to different parts of my personality so I can’t say if it is the most important one or not – but that doesn’t really matter, I think. In that sense, if you help me succeeding in my work, you also help me succeeding in growing my personality. You help me being more proud of what I am doing because you help making it better, more well-known and, importantly, more valuable o society at large. And I hope that my contribution to your work (e.g. by providing some basis) will have a similar effect for you. What’s more important is that the borders between “my work” and “your work” go away.
So it becomes “our work”, something we jointly work on, and something we are actually being tied together. And, in a sense, part of my personality becomes yours and vice versa. Doesn’t that justify to also care a bit about the person who is behind that shared work? To me, I think so, even though we “know” each other only via electrons traveling a global network…