That phrase was eventually absorbed by the German Workers party and then later adopted by the Nazi party who placed it over the gates of many of the concentration camps. In The Kingdom of Auschwitz, Otto Friedrich wrote about the man who had this done.
- "He seems not to have intended it as a mockery, nor even to have intended it literally, as a false promise that those who worked to exhaustion would eventually be released, but rather as a kind of mystical declaration that self-sacrifice in the form of endless labour does in itself bring a kind of spiritual freedom"
In my current job I spend my days sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer screen. I suppose I shouldn't tell much about all that here except to say that it's horribly unfulfilling to me. At the end of the day my contribution is trivial and unmeasurable. I get paid exceptionally well for this and it seems, as long as they're passing out money, I'd be a fool not to show up and take it from them.
For fulfillment then, I have to look to other things to provide that. In the past that has always been competition. Although honestly only in my earliest years was my love the actual competing part, or rather the ego gains winning at competition garnered. Once I was about 19yrs old I realized that most of my running had nothing to do with ego and more to do with the spiritual freedom Arbeit Macht Frei conveys. The very freedom that those ancient philosophers and religions try to articulate.
Running was a form of work. I've often said it is the journey that I enjoy, not the rewards. At some point it comes down to loving the activity. Loving putting yourself into something. Something that takes you away from the current pains and strains of daily life and replaces those the kinds of soreness you control. After my running days whistled away and my cycling ran the same course from egocentric fervor to work induced pleasure I've been lost for a bit. I needed something to put myself into, a work that I enjoyed but was more appropriate for the tough times I feel we'll face in the near future (my posts about Peak Oil). Here is what I found.
1) My old truck died :-( I pulled the transmission, replaced the clutch, a few bearings, etc. Turns out the transmission had some internal problems. I didn't have the facilities to have another go a it. RIP old buddy.
2) I taught my co-worker how to do tile and helped her do her own backsplash.
3) Jeremiah's work was removing their carpet and putting in new. We removed the best pieces and I hauled it to Ohio for my buildings.
4) I had renters who had combined 2 apartments into one before I purchased it. They were paying less than I could get for rent for 1 apartment. Rather than raise their rent, I took back the 2nd apartment and am updating it. That's still a work in progress.
That's your taste for now. I've also....
5) rebuilt an apartment
6) tiled my aunts bathroom
7) insulated the 3rd floor ceiling of my building.
8) removed my aunts hot tub and moved her washer and dryer into that room from the basement.
9) built storage facility in my buildings basement.
10) gave my buildings basement walls a skim coat of concrete.
11) replaced the ceiling in my moms bedroom.
12) and much more. I'll try to keep you posted.
I gain a real feeling of fulfillment in building and repairing things. I like to stand back at the end of the day and admire my creations. Perhaps my hard work is simply an avenue towards current fulfillment, perhaps it improves the lives of others, perhaps I'll reap rewards of a different type later from my hard work now. That brings up another sign that adorned the gates of concentration camps.
Jedem das Seine. which literally means, "to each his own", but idiomatically "everyone gets what he deserves" I toil on, for love of the activity, for love of others I work for, for love of the skills I attain and hone, and because I believe the things I've achieved through hard work in my life were earned. There's satisfaction in earning something that isn't material, cannot be traded, or taken away. Find your journey and live it! :-)