Does it Amount to Anything?

She Won. She became a landscaper.

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.

Raising a kid is a process of letting go, especially of this mentality of acquisition. Every picture he draws with care and love, that I then eventually discard, drives this home. As will every science project and blue ribbon and once beloved toy we must let go. Just as it is in my own life when I toss cards people have sent, A+ college papers, or magazine articles I wrote for a job long ago. What does it amount to?

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.

 

3 Comments

  1. Hey Rocky, I’ve been dealing with purging the clutter, piles, and unused crap in my life. How important a particular item seemed in the moment; only to be used a few times then cast aside to collect dust. It’s more difficult for me to let go of sentmental things (gifted items) than “stuff” I purchased. It feels like I’m betraying the giver. As the number of physical things decrease, the clutter in my head decreases as well. How much do any of us REALLy need? Less than most of us already have.

    Thanks for timely obeservation, it hits home.

  2. “Just process.”

    Awesome post, Rocky! Thank you for this. Valuing the ephemeral over the perceived permanent. Loving the ephemeral and devaluing the perceived permanent. Living for the ephemeral and ignoring the perceived permanent. This is the path I am on too!

    Thanks again for writing this today, for now, and though not directly, for me.

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