March 4, 2016

Random thought I had the other day...

I place a lot of my own self-worth in being valuable to others.

I get a lot more engaged in a group if I feel I'm critical to that group. For example: on summer I started attending Sunday services at my local UU church. Its scraggly, sparsely-attended meeting felt kind of familiar to me, and I thought I might find a home there, take up a common cause. Then fall arrived, and I found out that many New England churches kind of "pause" for the summer, but in autumn the spigots get turned back on full blast. Much of my urge to go to church left me. (Also: lazy Sunday mornings are kind of fantastic.) In part, I felt lost in the crowd. But I also felt like I would be "needed", was unlikely to be critical to the group.

(Another example: switching to tuba from the smaller baritone horn in the sixth grade, because a trumpet player had switched to baritone, and I liked the nature of being the only player of an instrument in a group.)

So I tend to be very reliable with this kind of thing, stalwart, which is a good thing but it comes from two weird places: the first is, maybe I don't feel like I have a ton of intrinsic value. (Conversely: do I feel most people do have intrinsic, part of the human birthright? It's a pretty basic humanistic tenant but I'm not sure it's one that I've perfectly embraced.) The second is: if a group doesn't NEED me, then why should I bother? (I mean, except in the ways that it's entertaining for me.) Life is full of a lot of potential demands for my precious time!

Some of it's just the binary thinking problem - oversimplifying, binary thinking is one of the biggest issues I see in the world, and I'm dismayed that I'm plagued by it too. People don't want a multidimensional way of taking things in, acknowledging that everything has parts that are good, less good, great, terrible - we want a single spectrum of "good" or "bad", and we don't even want a spectrum, we want to say good OR bad.

It muddles my thinking. It's just hard to wrap my head around ideas like "this effort - where I'm useful now - would be ok without me, but different".

(Of course a while ago I wrestled in a variation of this, the "If you 'can't live without me' why aren't you dead yet?" type thing. The best answer I remember coming for that was that - well, they wouldn't DIE die, but you're critical to them being the best selves that they are now, that at least in that sense the person they are now wouldn't be around.)
One part of humanity's moral growth will be the recognition and acceptance of people determining the timeline for their own ends.
Sometimes it's easy to forget that Alewife, the station I arrive at nearly every day to begin my day's journey, is ultimately named after a type of herring.