on mattering

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because I love this ear on a log in my local woods

We all want to matter. After we die we’d like to be remembered, and I’m not even going to call it vanity for us to want as many people as possible to mourn our disappearance. There’s an old saying (and I don’t even know its origin) that everyone dies twice. The first is when our heart stops pumping blood and the electrical storms in our heads cease to rumble. The second is when our name is spoken for the last time.

Shivers. I love that quote, even though people mispronounce my last name already, despite my repeated corrections.

To matter to other people, we have to do something. It’s as simple as that. I can matter to myself just by having brilliant thoughts and proving to myself that I can love other people and appreciate free jazz. I’m easily satisfied with myself. This may be an issue, so keep that in mind if you’re reading this for advice. I can’t give that and, really, I don’t want to do that much in the world. Here’s a summation of my current aspirations:

I hate myself in the morning and get aggravated in the afternoons, but by night I’ve worked past those feelings and I just want to live with myself–so I stay up with insomnia quite happily, full of my day’s victory. By night I’m either out of my own head or pleased to be there. But that cycle turns into a daily routine. I just want to earn enough money to be a semi-hermit, venturing out when I need someone else as a litmus test to gauge how odd and ingrown I’ve become. I’d be happy alone, maybe I’m meant to have only long-distance relationships, and maybe I could make my happy nights an all day thing. I’d write from time to time to get thoughts out, because if I write for a market I’m useless. I’ve never been in love so I was shocked that people thought my love poems were realistic. What the hell!? I look forward to getting old because, at a certain point, an old person doesn’t care what others think. Maybe old age is when we stop trying to be grownups who do things in order to matter to a large group of “others.”

But that’s just the thing. I got away with not caring about the thoughts of others for years. My teen years, in fact. It’s easy enough to be an individual when you seclude yourself from social groups, which is exactly what I did. I can recommend it in small doses. Doing that for a few months could do wonders for the self-esteem and foster new ideas. But I did it for far too long, past the point where I found it fun. It just became depressing as I realized, for all my smarts, that we need other people to understand us. We need someone to share ourselves with.

In saying that I didn’t need to matter to anyone but myself, surely something that bleh motivational speakers shout in school auditoriums, I lost the chance to see if other people felt the same way as I did. I lost the ability to easily make friends. There’s no point in being an individual if I can’t matter to the people that matter to me.

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6 thoughts on “on mattering

  1. kjrenner

    Because of this post, I finally understand my own insomnia. “I hate myself in the morning and get aggravated in the afternoons, but by night I’ve worked past those feelings and I just want to live with myself–so I stay up with insomnia quite happily, full of my day’s victory. By night I’m either out of my own head or pleased to be there”–that’s EXACTLY right. Thanks for putting it into words.
    I think everyone should strive to break their addiction “to doing things in order to matter to a large group of ‘others,'” but it’s so damn hard. Maybe that’s what Maslow meant by “self-actualization”?

    Reply
    1. bradjordahl Post author

      Aww, I’m so glad I was able to put something into words so that it made sense. Thanks, K!

      And I always scoff at Maslow. His system is too cut and dry, plus any one of us proves him wrong. His pyramid was based on the assumption that the higher up levels couldn’t be adequately achieved until the building blocks had been met, but come on. I currently don’t have employment or sexual intimacy, but I definitely have items from his top level: morality, creativity, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts. It’s a stubborn system that was obviously thought up by a guy who didn’t spend much time out of first world countries.

      That’s my little rant over…

      Reply
      1. kjrenner

        Have you ever actually read Maslow? I think he is more than just the system to which he is attached. I am speaking from ignorance, but after briefly reading the (gulp) wikipedia entry on “self-actualization” because I couldn’t remember Maslow’s name, I sort of want to read _A Theory of Motivation_ because some of the lines quoted from it are really quite remarkable. I somehow highly doubt any intelligent person would actually believe in the hierarchy as a step-by-step process. I bet he just gets dumbed down.

      2. bradjordahl Post author

        I know that he focused on the happiness of a patient holistically rather than viewing them as a bag of symptoms, but that’s about it.

        I don’t think the hierarchy is step by step, but the fact that I feel comfortable with most of the problems of level 5 when I’m missing so much in-between seems to show how overly simplistic he had to make his chart. I feel like it was dumbed down for marketing purposes, said the cynical youth.

        A professor on Wikipedia?! I declare…

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