I truly despise things that have no point. This is a surprisingly large number of things. A lot of what goes on in business has no point, or very little point. People get flown from all over the world to have terrible, unstructured conversations that produce nothing of value. People in intermediate positions of power (managers) create work for others that has no clear purpose, and adds nothing of value to the world, although everyone pretends that it does. We pour our effort into things that literally do nothing for no one, and are not even an enjoyable distraction from the fact that our lives are seeping away.
It’s very easy to do things that have no point, because it is hard to clarify a truly worthwhile point for an effort. Our modern mental disease is the habit of getting started on something, and then trying to dream up a point for it afterwards, if we even get around to trying to articulate the mission at all. Perhaps this is also an ancient mental disease. The habit of half-arseing the point certainly holds humanity back from doing great things – or even just nice things – and instead ensures we stay sleepwalking over the landscape of possible things to do, occasionally bumping into rocks, then eventually falling down a hole, and then pretending the walls of that hole are the limits of what is possible.
To clarify a point to something means: to connect what you are doing with something truly valuable. Obviously this is an ongoing effort: we constantly need to discuss and refine our understanding of what valuable things we are aiming to bring about or honour in the world. For example, I want to start a therapy company, because I feel that people taking good-quality therapy will help them be more conscious of their emotions day to day, which will help them (a little bit) be more understanding of other people’s weirdness, and (slightly) more apt to realise the they are often a difficult pill to swallow themselves. To give a single label to this state of affairs, I would say “increase forgiveness”. So the point of doing this work, and all the sub-tasks associated with it, is to increase forgiveness in the world. And I would learn more about what forgiveness is as I go on.
Because clarifying the point to something is a challenging exercise, it is hard to find organizations and tasks that have a genuinely satisfying purpose. In modern capitalism we float in a gigantic ocean garbage patch of: (a) things that have no point, and (b) things that have a minor point, but not articulated. This latter case includes things like: building an office supplies company. It is not a bad thing to provide people with paperclips, post-it notes and sticky tape; there is a small point to this because it is nice to have these things around in life. They make life slightly more ordered. But it’s not a hugely inspiring point. If the company grew into a business thoroughly devoted to bringing beautiful order into the lives of millions – through a variety of means, from post-it notes, to architecture, to personalized services – it would be inspiring.
At the moment we live under a hegemony of morons. And a combination of intellectual currents from history that lead us to honour and respect the idea of collecting random shit, or doing random research, or pouring herculean resources into doing whatever we happen to be doing (and who knows what that is, or really why), but more efficiently. At least at some periods in history people have had the good sense to try to avoid these things. At the moment most collective efforts are either completely mediocre, or like some gigantic machine, pulling and pushing things back and forth, built up piece by random piece, with no conception of a goal. And staring into it is staring into the abyss.