The art of self-fulfillment 

It is in human nature to strive to achieve the very best. One is brought up believing that they were born for a reason. And throughout the course of one’s life, one questions what his or her purpose for living is? Humans are thought to be the most highly advanced beings on the planet, ones capable of thought, sociability, and interaction. We, as humans, are given the oppurtunities and experiences to become accomplished individuals. As Pico Della Mirandola states in Oration On the Dignity Of Man, "Man, when he entered life, the Father gave the seeds of every kind and every way of life possible." From the very beginning of time this idea of happiness in respect to self-fulfillment has been observed in the thoughts and actions of individuals all over the world. And so, it is believed that contentment in life can be attained by being successful. Success can mean many things, it can be interpreted as earning a high salary, living in luxury, having a hot dinner every night, etc. Nonetheless, success impacts one's mental and emotional state. Working in a mediocre job with a low salary can have a negative effect on one's psyche. Not only would the tangible elements of a job, such as a low income, effect one's attitude but also whether or not that job is impacting society in the way an individual would like it to can as well. In the various texts we have read throughout the course of the semester, we have encountered all sorts of individuals who have interpreted his/her profession in his/her own particular way. Both men and women who are unskilled laborers appear to experience a trend of dissatisfaction with their careers and lives. These individuals blame their daily work activities for their discontentment. The monotonous nature of these peoples’ lives has the tendency to affect their mental and emotional satisfaction. The workers in The Working and Bartle in Yellow Birds are especially psychologically and emotionally distraught by their lack of career development. Individuality is questioned throughout the texts as well. For instance, in the Yellow Birds Bartle states, “Of those million million flakes that fall, no two are alike, forever and ever, amen…They all look the same to me.” In this quote itself the reader can conclude that Bartle believes that his individuality doesn’t matter and that regardless of what is held to popular belief some people just do not have that special something that makes them stand out. Yet, as mentioned before, this is not what we have all been brought up to believe. We are taught that through hard-work and perseverance success, and thereby, happiness will follow. However, there come points in peoples' lives when they are at a standstill and don't appear to be moving forward. In this day and age, people get laid off, they are replaced by means of technology that are more productive, they aren't given the proper credit they deserve for their work, and so on. These factors contribute to said worker's attitude towards not only his or her job but his or her life as a whole. Each individual's circumstance for discontentment is different; however, they all root from the same source: self-fulfillment. 

This piece of artwork is representative of all the mutual feelings of emptiness the characters in many of the novels we have studied has felt. The characters in these stories are all on a journey and the man on this never ending staircase they never know what the final destination will be. Metaphorically, in relation to the characters in these works, the final destination can be success, money, happiness, or self-fulfillment. The individuals in the novels we have read, we too, some more than others, experience this feeling of discontentment with their lives. In the works we have read most of the unhappiness is felt because of the lack of accomplishment one feels. Mike Lefevre, the steelworker, repeats time and time again that he does not take pride in his work and as a result has a negative impact on his esteem. He states, "If you can’t improve yourself, you improve your posterity. Otherwise life isn’t worth living."
It meshes both concepts of human labor and machinery. The piece is painted to express how human production is a thing of the present and soon-to-be past. The machinery in the background highlights how technological development will be a thing of the future. This representative of the workers of The Working by Terkel and of The Most Human Human article. In that article, supercomputers were used to establish how advanced technology has become. These computers fooled many people into believing that they were humans. In this way, the uniqueness of human nature is slowly disintegrating. In the article it state, "We once thought humans were unique for having a language with syntactical rules but this isn't so." As time goes on, machines are replacing humans in the workforce. It is a fear that dwells deep in the heart of any individual with a monotonous and menial job. The receptionist in The Working said, "Your job doesn’t mean anything. Because you’re just a little machine. A monkey could do what I do. It’s really unfair to ask someone to do that." Being compared to inanimate object and an animal can really put one's life into perspective. It goes to show how unnecessary the job of a receptionist, as she describes it, is and how noncontributory it is to society.
The steelworker was far from happy with his career a man with a similar occupation, a mason worker, was completely enthralled by his job. However, the mason does acknowledge that there are those who think lowly of the job of a laborer. He says, "I think a laborer feels that he's the low man. Not so much that he works with ihs hands, it's that he's at the bottom of the scale." But, really, it is a matter of attitude. There are those who are not fulfilled by the simple matter of a roof over their heads or food on their table but rather dream to live a life of luxury. If one's perspective is positive then happiness is attainable. Though the individuals in these portrait are not elegantly dressed and are seated in cramped quarters the shining light from the window indicates a more benevolent atmosphere.
Misery is the most evident depiction in this photograph. Being a black worker during the 1950's was physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting. A plethora of emotions is expressed on this man's face. He could be depressed, anxious, angry, worried, or anything else. Though we will never know exactly what he was feeling we do know it is a negative emotion. The physical strains this laborer possibly endured to provide for himself or perhaps his family have the potential to psychologically scar him. Working in harsh conditions and the discriminatory nature of work in the 1950's, like other factors, can lead to the feelings of emptiness and lack of success; such feelings are portrayed by characters in The Working. For instance, the receptionist admits that her job does not require qualified skills and that anyone could do her job. Though she isn't as pessimistic as the others there is a tone of resentment when referring to her work, that she is "treated like a machine." In the same way as many of the Black workers of mid 1900's must have felt as portrayed in this photograph.
This piece represents the shackles of unhappiness some workers of this day and age experience. This unhappiness can be a result of work conditions and the tolls those conditions have one's psyche. Bartle in The Yellow Birds was mentally shackled by the violence and death he was exposed to as a solider at war. Bartle had said, "I wanted to die, not in the sense of wanting to throw myself off of that train bridge over there, but more like wanting to be asleep forever." His mind was so bogged down by the memories of war and his lack of accomplishment that he had no drive to live. He was unable to remove himself from the shackles which led to his own demise.
Looking worn and tired after a long day's work, these men in this painting not only resemble workers of the early 20th century but also soldiers returning from overseas. Not only do the men in this painting look physically exhausted but they look psychologically damaged as well. The use of the long strokes and dark colors represent the negative consequences that result from traumatic situations, such as war. The distresses of war and work have led to domestic issues, internal, and external conflicts, and more. None of which could be resolved in the span of less than a few years. Ridding oneself of the burden accompanied with working long days and nights is no easy task. Men who are returning from overseas experience cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which can ruin one's life. Nightmares, anxiety, and stress hinders the progression of these men and women into normal society. Without assimilation other issues of abnormality arise among the individuals experiencing PTSD or any other psychologically hindering circumstance. This leads to a cascade of negative circumstances that cannot be resolved in a timely fashion.
This piece of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of soldiers, is especially symbolic because he represents not only soldiers but also those whose efforts have gone uncelebrated. Being a martyr, does not only have to be in reference to dying for a belief but in reference to working a martyr can be those who have not been commended for their actions. Soldiers and workers alike are not given the mere "thank you" that they deserve. Slaving their lives away for the goodness of society is a type of martyrdom as well, whether death actually occurs or not.
This portrait is accurately named the Paths of Glory. To achieve greatness sacrifice is sometimes required. These soldiers lie in the trenches and face their destinies one explosion at a time. Some survive and some do not. Metaphorically, life is a battlefield and progression is part of the struggle. There are certain people who slave their lives away but at the end do not feel the sense of empowerment and dignity that they deserve. This is all part of the path one paves for oneself, sometimes life gives us the opportunity to progress, yet, other times we have no choice but to give in to the circumstances that come with one's responsibilities, whether it be as a soldier, as a clerk, or as a banker. Regardless of the job, everyone experiences obstacles and the only way to face these challenges is to learn to overcome them. For example, in The Gig the homicide detective constantly faced issues but it was up to her discretion whether to be bogged down by her problems or work past them. The worst instance was when she took the statements of two individuals who were not read their rights prior to being arrested. Because their rights weren't read and statements were took anyway the statements were thrown out and the the defendant, who committed the crime, was released and the other individual who wasn't even there at the crime was convicted. Her error in judgment led to a plethora of consequences. One of the consequences being kicked off the homicide department for ten and a half months. However, she fought. She knew she did nothing wrong and fought her case. She didn't let the negativity from colleagues bog her down and she fought for her stature back. Her strength and determination allowed her to maintain a firm attitude and perspective. One's attitude can be deciding factor in how one lives his or her life even if there are a few bumps along the way.
The title says it all. The strong and sprout trees represent one's journey, the possibility for growth and prosperity. Yet, the empty chair in the middle symbolizes the lack of will, strength, and drive. Contentment and self-fulfillment is based on perspective. Without the will to persevere happiness in one's life is unattainable. Yes, there are obstacles in life but there are ways to avoid them. Mike Lefevre was a truck loader before he was a steelworker and he was much happier in that position, yet, he says it was because he felt the tangible nature of his contribution. He would be in direct maneuvering of goods whereas as a steelworker his contributions were indistinguishable. Lefevre admits, "My attitude is that I don't get excited about my job." Therefore, it was all a matter of perspective. In his mind, contributions to society were only feasible if an individual was directly involved. Had his mentality been otherwise perhaps he could've been able to be content with his life.
The best example of an individual who could not seem to find contentment in his life would be no one other than Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh had spent a majority of his life as an unrecognized artist. His unrecognition as a gifted painter led to his psychological downward spiral. Regardless, he maintained some aspect of his ego by painting self-portraits and even in this portrait he has his paints in hand. This highlights one's nature to showcase his hard-work. Despite time and geography, the human spirit strives to show a sense of pride and dignity.
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