“So, What Do You Do……….”

Question mark

Question mark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a common question asked at every social setting when we meet somebody new.

A loaded question that makes one decide our Belonging, Relational Status, Placement and Standing in Society.

A question that makes some stand tall and proud, some stay neutral and yet others crouch low in answering.   A question that makes one gloat or cringe, or stutter and stumble.  It is a question – the answer of which immediately categorizes me in  the other’s eyes.  A question potentially filled with judgment.

Voluntarily or involuntarily, knowingly or unknowingly, we all are culprits of that.  We ask that question and within a split second make a comparison and decide who we are and what we are in relation to each other.  Some cultures condition their members to interact with each other solely on the nature of what one does for a living.

Why is that question so important? Why does the answer to that question give rise to such mixed emotions in people?  Why is ‘Doing’ so important?

The ‘How are You’ question which gives rise to  ‘Being’ answers are briefly addressed unless one is chronically sick- then the ‘Doing’ questions take prominence.

We tend to place our entire worth on ‘Doing’.  People ‘doing’ meaningful and high end professions derive immediate respect from the inquirer and vice versa. Depending on the answer, we either become respectful or awkwardly polite.  Our bodies, heads, chairs lean towards the ones that we value as more – more educated (translates to number of degrees or the type of qualification), more wealthy (the type of profession or business), better dressed etc., The open or subtle “Ah’s” and “oh’s” we express say a lot.  This is more obvious in certain cultures and countries than the others.  We all become like birds -birds of the same flock………

Is this discrimination – albeit subtle?

A simple question, casually asked can arouse such a variety of responses with such a mixture of emotions that we suppress and try and act normal. We place each other in relation to one another depending on what we do for a living.  That placement, even if it is not  malicious in its intent, gives a sense of ‘Relative Belonging’ and that is important to each one of us.  Some have beautifully scripted responses full of confidence, yet others have awkward stumbling over almost apologetic responses to that question.   Regardless of societies and cultures, no matter how egalitarian one proclaims to be, this happens.

So, What do You Do………….

Will this change?  Can this change?

Can we all stand shoulder to shoulder and proudly announce what we do and acknowledge that every profession regardless of the status quo attached to it, is like a tiny screw in a huge rocket.  One misplaced or missing screw can bring the entire rocket down.  We understand that with objects. Why can’t we understand that in human relationships?

We all are interconnected.  We are ‘Human Beings’, not ‘Human Doings’.

We know that intellecutally, but to live that in reality is another entire story.  We judge ourselves before anybody else does.

Is a Doctor’s service better than a Taxi Driver’s? Is a Surgeon’s knife more noble than a Soldier’s?  Does a person who drives computers deserve more respect than a person who cleans toilets?  Is a Scientist who invents better than a Chef who creates? Where is the need for comparisons?

We need Surgeons and Soldiers, Chef’s and Scientists. We need Drivers – of all sorts – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. We need creatives of all sorts – Scientists, Artiists, Writers, Chefs.

We cannot live without any of these services and yet we measure, weigh, compare, judge and put a value and then act.  This happens in a split second.  We tend to know a person through what they do first and then based on that judgment, if we choose to continue our relationship we will eventually see beyond  – to the real ‘Being’ behind the ‘Doing’.

Is it possible to stop this at all? Is it possible to truly stand next to each other and proclaim it doesn’t matter what we do, we are one because we are human ‘Beings’ first and foremost.  Then comes the ‘Doing’.

We may not discriminate on the color, the cast, the creed, the culture, the race, the gender etc, but we tend to instantly discriminate on the grounds of what we do.  Call it what you may, but the Relational Comparison happens and based on that we take on our Society Conditioned Identities.

The day when we make our ‘Being’ as our exclusive identity and not our ‘Doing’, that’s the day when we will stop discriminating completely.  We may have to come up with new answers to that question –

“So, What do you do………” .

May be the answer can be “I am Being  Doctor, Driver, Plumber, Chef…….” etc.,

Will a ‘Being…. a profession’ response change how we feel about ourselves and about each other? Will that remove the layers that we surround ourselves with and the walls that we erect between us?

I think so. We need to urgently change the language that we use in our conversations. Only then believable change can happen.

What do you think?

I am interested to know what your response would be to that question.  Please drop in your comments.

Until next time

With Love and Respect

Padma Ayyagari

About Padma Ayyagari

I am a Human Values Activist, passionate about and trying to live steeped in Spirituality. I live with the knowledge that Love is the undercurrent of all human life. I believe in Unity of Faiths, Unity in diversity and try and live my life with unity in thought, word and deed. Helping others to lead a life of practical spirituality that will give peace of mind is my passion and life purpose.
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4 Responses to “So, What Do You Do……….”

  1. Zakgirl says:

    Hmmm, this is a tough one for me.

    As a kid if you asked me,

    “What are you doing?”

    I would have answered,

    “Not much”.

    This reply may indicate to my parents that I was really up to no good.

    But as you say, Padma, as an adult we’re expected to answer with “I’m an Accountant” or “I’m a Secretary”.

    I feel perplexed by this question because I’ve done (or “been doing”) so many different things through my small time on this earth that I don’t know what I could be categorized AS. IF I had to say “I AM A”. I could tell you what I’ve been and what I’m doing today but I’m made up of all those experiences and they’re so varied. Should I have stuck at one thing and become a top professional in that field? Would this have made my life any better?

    You’ve got me thinking Padma.

    This is not an easy topic.

    It requires a lot of thought and a lot of introspection.

    Thank you for sharing!



  2. jamesroom964x says:

    I think we attach a lot, probably too much, to what people do for a living. Probably most disturbingly, we ascribe value to some professions, and not to others. I know a lot of people who were looked down on for pursuing their dreams of becoming teachers, because the job is not as monetarily rewarding as say, a career in finance. It makes you wonder how long we can devalue certain professions, when we really need them all interlocking perfectly, as you said. Anyway, when I meet people, I usually lead off with, “what do you do outside of work?” It makes for much more interesting conversation!


  3. Pingback: The Supremacy of language, heaven, god, and society « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

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