Unintentional Value Dissemination

Today my son had Monday malaise and channeled it into a powerful life question.

He asked, “Why do we have to work?”
Me (not getting it yet): “Money for food and whatnot.”
Indy: “No, like why do we have to go to school, and go to work, and stay at work all day and then go to school again. Why can’t we just be home?”

Ah hah! Now that’s a question.

As I proceeded to ramble an answer, I tried to express these opinionated values:

– Society is useful.
– School is worthwhile because community is worthwhile.
– Materialism traps us.

The cool thing was that I could imagine him internalizing these values and then moving in many different directions – like maybe Ted Kaczynski (disagree on 1 and 2 / agree on 3) or stock broker with a Manhattan townhouse (agree on 1 and 2 / disagree on 3), etc.

I want to know, what values did you inherit from family and then embrace or reject?

Here was my answer to Indy:

Me: “There was a time people didn’t go to work or school.  Their only job was to eat and stay warm and sheltered.  They grew their own food, built their own houses and that was their job.”

Indy: “That sounds good.”

Me: “It was to a point, but if the rain didn’t come, you starved to death. And if you got sick, you died because there was no medicine.”

Indy: “Oh.”

Me: “So we built all this (we were on the highway at the time, so I could just sweep my arm around). And now we all do very specific things like work on the internet or make medicine or drive food from farms to city people.”

Indy: “I wish we didn’t have to work all the time.”

Me: “We don’t! And you don’t have to go to school.  When you grow up, you can work part time your whole life and still eat and stay warm. And I can teach you at home.”

Indy: “Sweet.”

Me: “But not working much means you wouldn’t be able to buy many video games or ugly dolls or go to Burger King. And if I teach you at home, you won’t see your friends all that often.

Indy: “Oh.”

Me: “People work because they like to buy things, and they like to be with other people, and they like to be like other people. But you don’t have too.”

Indy: “Okay. Turn up the music.”

He’ll probably bring this up again after he really processes it. He’s super cool like that. I can’t wait. I’ll let you know what he thinks.


  1. I am going to print this out and have it in my wallet and in my car for when Eve or Sam asks those questions. Brilliantly done!

  2. I do hope Indy can solve this riddle. I sure as hell can’t, and I love what I do (for a living). I wait with bated breath…

Submit a comment