I believe American culture suffers from a product mentality. We are materialists at heart. Consumers. Goals, desires are often outside of ourselves and we’re on a linear trajectory towards acquiring something – a better job, a higher salary, a lake house, a BMW, a trip to Spain.
And while that has all kinds of problems associated with it, the one that most affects me is the “what does this amount to” mentality. It is a spiritual practice to purge your house, your job, your task sheet and your mind of this productivity and result obsession. But, I think it is key to escaping the “life of quiet desperation” crap.
Nothing drives this home for me like having a child. When I first had Indy, I was still very “what does this amount to” motivated. I was reading lots of books on how to raise the perfect child with the most life opportunities. I planned to give him the gift of “getting ahead,” and well intention-ed as it was, it was misguided and went terribly. Thank God.
Nothing. It all will go into the ground whether I choose it or not. But does that mean it is worthless? Of course not. Just because I have to toss a notebook of drawings from my son to replace it on the shelf with another, does not, in any way, devalue the last notebook. But the value of these things lies in the moment — of creating them, living through and with them. It comes in the experience of them, the learning from them, and the moving through them. Not onward and upward. Just process.
Understanding this, for me, is the key to not going mad on my writing journey. The first draft, the first manuscript, the last effort is never a waste. Yes, it is not, will never, “amounting to anything” in a traditional materialistic sense. But I must remember that ultimately nothing does. Have you ever picked up a non-literary novel from the 1960s? They are snapshots in time – of what (usually) women who bought the book generally thought, desired, and suffered.
But the story, the characters, the author is unmemorable and of no societal value. No one from the time, from the mindset, is left to buy this book. It will go to the landfill. But was it worthless? No. In its moment, it touched someone, occupied a space in their mind and life, influenced the way they then influenced someone else. You can never know how your work touches a human spirit. Therein lies the value.
So, I carry on knowing it will all amount to nothing and yet still I have hope in its worth for me and beyond me.