When Most Things Do Not Matter

It was not until very recently I realized that I was, in some important regards, a Buddhist. Now, I am not saying I converted or anything. I am not shaving my head or giving up worldly possessions, but I instead understand something: fundamentally, most things do not matter.

I am not saying that most things are not important. There are things which are important and things that will impact your life tremendously. This is why it is important to get involved in politics in many instances. But that does not mean that there are overarching theories of how the world works (Neoliberalism being responsible for literally everything, the New World Order, lizard people…take your pick). What it means is instead that there are things that affect your life and things that do not and it is up to you to decide how much they matter to you.

At the risk of sounding a bit glib, I think something like this is how a lot of people came around on gay marriage. Think of being anti-gay marriage, if you can. If you are against gay marriage, then your life must be hell right now because somewhere, right now, a gay couple is getting married. If you do not like this, what are you supposed to do? I suppose you could be like the Westboro Baptist Church: spending your life traveling around picketing places like soldiers’ funerals and what not, or spending countless dollars and hours in court for various reasons trying to get rid of them. But you will not win and even if you did somehow, what is the point? It is you using your time to do something that people are going to be doing anyway and you yourself have no control over other people’s behavior. You need to ask yourself then at this juncture, “What on earth am I getting out of this that I am going around, trying to make people who I don’t know, I don’t interact with, and have no intention of spending large amounts of time with miserable?”

The ultimate answer, I think, is because you have invested your moral self-worth, nay, your entire identity itself into this aspect of your person when you could be doing other things with your life. Consider that Nazi who is been going around, Richard Spencer. Now, he is a horrible human being who we should not feel sorry for since he is doing all of what he does without hesitation and he does not seem any sorry about say, calling for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” or whatever monstrous bile that is coming out of his mouth. But can you imagine for a minute how miserable Richard Spencer must be if he has spent his entire adult life advocating for this sort of thing? I am not saying he has failed because of this: He has done very well for himself in his way (which again I think says a lot about what kind of people we are talking about here that give Richard Spencer money). But Richard Spencer, Nazi, is also Richard Spencer the father of a small child, Richard Spencer whose marriage fell apart, Richard Spencer who is an expert on Depeche Mode and Richard Spencer who, as strange as this is to imagine, actually has friends. There are infinite aspects of his being that he could be using instead of being a Nazi and he has so little self-esteem that he needs to base his identity around the idea of being White, rather than all of the things I just listed.

Fundamentally, doing Nazi-like stuff (unless we get into a scary situation where they could get power) does not matter and engaging with them does not matter. You are not going to feel better ranting about some White Student Union at a small college in Alabama because you are far away, you do not have to deal with these people and you know what you are getting with them. What is the point of engaging in the world if you just vent against it? I am not saying to never dissent—dissent is one of the most valuable things a person can do to take a stand against something they consider unjust. But there is a difference between strategic dissent and dissent that is done entirely to make yourself feel better and only you to feel better.

Adulthood is about realizing what is really important, but it is also about realizing what things really mean. Ultimately, the world is not about theories of how it works. The meaning of the world is not in the physical world, but is instead what we choose has meaning, how we choose to live our lives and even if it is in only our current existence providing for others and ourselves in order to live our life to the best.