My parents always told me there was beauty in work. They would use expressions like "labours of love" and warn me against building castles in the sand. To my childish mind, these jewels of aged wisdom rang decidedly hollow, and I would cringe at their usage. Now I can see how appropriate the analogy is. The best works of our lives are not built with tools and toil. Those are just the surface elements. They're built with dedication and love and sacrifice.
I think we have the wrong idea about work because our culture has evolved a separation between what we do to survive and what we survive to do. There's no unity of purpose; just a few lucky people doing what they love and the rest doing what they have to. The explanations for this are many and true: a vicious consumer culture, social fragmentation, media manipulation, division of labour, overpopulation...on and on. And at the bottom of it there's this fundamental split, between occupation and existence.
But shouldn't our works be our lives?
Can't we alter this paradigm to develop something more human?
I think it's worth recognizing that beyond bank accounts and banter, there is another very important element of happiness. It's measured by our need to be engaged in meaningful effort. And maybe we should be listening to that instead of what our fears recommend.