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Adequate names for good traits
On John Cougar Mellencamp songs, cults of self-gratification, and the need for a word near the crossroads of duty and perseverance
Lots of important life experiences happen at intersections of feelings. A goodbye can be bittersweet. A problem can be faced with grim determination. Entire songs have been written about when something "hurts so good".
■ But we're inconsistent with how we allocate the words to the feelings. Some important hybrid feelings are missing from the dictionary. One of the most useful? A sense of pride in work you don't really want to do.
■ At the extreme, it's the experience of a veterinarian who has to put a beloved animal to sleep but who does it with compassion and grace. Yet it's experienced at lots of gentler levels, too. People do work all the time that isn't fun, isn't exciting, and isn't pleasurable. Sometimes you do it out of a sense of obligation. Sometimes it's your responsibility. Sometimes you're the only person around who knows how to complete the task.
■ The cult of "Do what you love and the rewards will follow" has a long reach. Yet finishing some kinds of work can be fulfilling or otherwise intrinsically rewarding, even when the process is the kind of thing we'd like to avoid. And not just the language would be richer with a good word for that; so would society. Pride can be mixed with reluctance, as indeed it probably is more often than comes naturally to our attention.
■ The word for it is out there somewhere -- in the neighborhood of other important words, like duty and grit and perseverance. We need to find that word, because we need to respect what it stands for.