I ended my last article with the question “What if none of it matters?”
I originally intended on ending it with “What if everything matters?” but I had a feeling I’d get more interesting responses if I ended it the way I did.
The truth is, as Life Lesson #38 says: nothing is trivial.
In other words, everything matters.
What you ate for breakfast matters. How much you exercise matters. The fact that you’re reading this right now matters. “Oh just one more [insert indulgence] can’t hurt” matters.
When I was younger I didn’t think very much mattered. Mostly I just didn’t care. I didn’t care whether someone died or whether someone won the lottery or whether someone was sick or how I felt or what I ate or what I did. I pretended I cared. I tried to act like I cared. But mostly all you’d get from me was flesh, no feeling.
… there is an idea of Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there. – Patrick Bateman in American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
It’s hard to pin down the turning point (my answer always changes) of when I began to genuinely care so I won’t make an attempt right now, but some of it stems from finally realizing what’s important.
Imperfection and Importance
We’re imperfect creatures so just because everything matters that doesn’t mean that everything we do is important.
There is a lot I do that’s seemingly not important at all. Is figuring out how to play Paparazzi by Lady Gaga on the guitar important in any way whatsoever? Not really. It doesn’t stretch my guitar playing abilities (it’s basically 5 total chords) but I think it’s funny, it’s silly, and it makes me smile. And you already know there is a lot of power in a smile. I can live with this. More than that, I love this. But if I spent all my waking hours learning how to play silly pop songs that would be a problem.
The 4 Stages of Importance
Importance can be broken down fairly simply into four stages. It’s not always black and white. There are definitely some gray areas, but this is a generally good break down.
Unimportant but beneficial
I would categorize silly pop song learning as unimportant but beneficial because having fun is essential to life.
Unimportant and not beneficial
This would be something like watching TV. But more than just watching TV, it’s being obsessed with a TV show. Recently someone told me they couldn’t wait to sit down and watch all of Dexter Season 4. “Rita died! I don’t know who killed her.”
“Wait a second, let me look it up and tell you and save you some time.” I joked.
“Nooooo!” and said person actually began crying.
I wouldn’t actually spoil someone’s life like this. I understand people will grasp at whatever they can when life sucks. But this situation was very sick, and very sad.
Important but not beneficial
This is a tough one. You could say paying taxes, for example, is important but not beneficial. You could say saving for retirement is important, but not beneficial. You could say having insurance is important, but not beneficial. A lot of this depends on who you ask.
Important and beneficial
Just like the other stages of importance important and beneficial is subjective, but I think it’s easier to determine than the other stages. I would say writing this blog is important and beneficial. I’m sure you could also make an argument that it’s neither. You’d be right. And so would I.
Important and beneficial means important and beneficial to you. This blog is important to me because I love writing and it’s fun connecting with people all around the world. It’s beneficial because I learn a lot from you and I hope you learn a little bit from me as well. See how that works? :)
The goal is to do more important and beneficial stuff.
Obviously everything you do won’t fall into this category. That’s OK. But you have a lot of choice in this matter.
For example, you could choose to watch Season 4 of Dexter or learn how to create a web series.
Both are media-related.
Both make an impact in some way.
But watching a TV show will make a mostly negative impact while learning how to create a web series will make a positive impact.
There is no tangible benefit to watching a TV show besides “vegging out.” It’s difficult to even consider this a tangible benefit. Vegging out is much different than, and not to be confused with, relaxation. Watching TV is not relaxing. Maybe you’ve forgotten how to relax? (Don’t worry, happens to everybody.)
Learning how to create a web series has unlimited potential. The fact is you might not do anything with that potential, and in that case, it matters just as much as watching a TV show. But the potential is there. The choice of what you’ll do with that potential is, as always, yours.
But What Truly Matters If Everything Matters?
Well, everything! Everything truly matters. Everything you’ve done, seen, touched, and experienced has shaped who you are. Everything you’re currently experiencing is shaping who you will be.
“I don’t understand, how can everything matter? You just went on yet another diatribe about how TV is a waste of time, how does TV matter?”
It matters because it shapes you. Something doesn’t have to be important for it to shape you.
When I say TV is a waste of time it doesn’t come from a place of judgement. If you need to watch 5 hours of TV every day, that’s cool. Although I would wonder why you’re reading this site. And if watching 5 hours of TV every day is not important to you, but you’re doing it anyway, why are you being a wuss? :)
Or maybe you want to smoke weed, drop acid, and eat cheetos. I’m not saying you should, I’m just saying it matters, because everything matters. History has proven there are lots of incredibly talented and smart people who have dabbled in mind-altering substances. The late Richard Feynman anybody? (BTW, if you’ve never read Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman it’s a must read.)
Tangent: The difference between a pothead and Mr Feynman is vast. But I don’t have to point that out, do I? :)
The Big Question
Nope, it’s not “what is the meaning of life?” That’s too easy. ;)
The big question is:
If everything matters, how often are you going to choose to do what’s important and beneficial?
Note: this article has resulted in more hate mail than I’ve ever received. I don’t need to know why you unsubscribed. We’re just not right people. It’s all good. I also don’t need to know why you love TV. It’s a dead horse and not even the real point of this article. Please read *all* the comments before making a new comment about TV. Thanks my loves!