During my walk, i realized that i was experiencing yet another cultural trauma: The isolation created in a culture that puts more weight on earning money than on being connected with other beings (unless you’re married to them). We don’t have time to reach out to people who matter to us, so many (all?) of us struggle with our sense of mattering. We don’t get daily, hourly reminders of it. And those reminders help. Even when we know most of the time that somehow we matter. Though that, too, is questioned in a culture that is built around hierarchies, upheld by stereotypes and shame. It is hard to hold onto our sense of mattering when basic needs like food, shelter, health care, and education aren’t taken care of on a society-wide level. It is hard to hold onto our sense of mattering when we have to keep struggling alone.
So, i decided to reach out to friends i hadn’t talked to for a while – and to keep doing that on a regular basis. I have a back-log of “meant to and didn’t” calls to make…
Somehow refocusing on the broader picture already helped with my self-doubt. Although, i admitted to myself that i was longing for people to make those calls to me. To randomly call me to let me know i matter to them. Down i went again into the hole of self-doubt. I got back home, well exercised and still feeling off somehow. As i shut the door behind me, it hit me: I don’t matter! It is my ego who so desperately wants to be fed with attention! It is difficult for me to describe the relief that came with this realization. All i can say is that it felt just like the experience of being deeply connected to my sense of self-worth. It seemed like a very Buddhist realization in the sense that i understood, deep down in my being, that i don’t need to be concerned with my mattering. I am okay. I am alive.
It was rather puzzling to me, yet i enjoyed the emotional shift i experienced: I felt free and joyful. I started laughing again. It seems rather silly to find joy in “I don’t matter,” yet somehow the way i understood it was completely different from the “I don’t matter” that had kept me in the hole of self-doubt. The “I don’t matter” of self-doubt craves desperately for attention from others. The “I don’t matter” i discovered steps into the freedom of deeply knowing – ironically – that i matter.
As the day went on, i kept falling back in the hole. I got back out by holding onto the freeing “I don’t matter.” It dawned on me why the Buddhist monks & nuns i have encounter seem so happy: It is a very happy place to not worry about my mattering, to just be alive and loving that! It also feels very kid-like. I want to emphasize again, though, that at bottom this freeing idea is a strong, solid sense of self-worth. It is knowing that. It is letting go of desperately wanting proof.
However, this transformation would not have been possible if i didn’t have signs of my mattering. To me, my understanding isn’t something that could have happened to me without being interdependent. It was the support of other people that helped me – including my appreciation of the invisible support we mostly take for granted. Like the bus drivers, the people who work at the power stations, the people who made this computer i am writing on and the one you’re reading with etc. We all matter! I wonder how our culture would change if we would act like we did. I would suspect that it would look very different. We would support each other because we’d appreciate what we all bring to each other’s lives. And i would suspect that we would enjoy life way more than when we’re worried about earning enough money to be able to buy another gadget, heck, nobody would be worried about making enough money to buy food or medicine. We would take care of each other.