"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living.
The world owes you nothing. It was here first."
I've had an uncomfortable thought that has haunted me most of my life. Seeing the way that people treat one another, I've come to accept the harsh truth that deep down no one really cares. I don't think the world is doomed because of our lack of compassion, but I get the real sense that the world has enough problems of its own to give a shit about mine. It's a cold thought for sure but outside of a select group of friends and family, no one really values me for who I am but only for what I can do for them. Even amongst our friends we silently calculate how much we're getting out of the relationship. If it seems too unbalanced then we bounce. There's a certain amount of despair that can come from this realization, but on the other hand it's also quite logical. No one is going to care more about what happens to you than… you. We might come to the mistaken conclusion that all we are is the sum of what we do; mirroring the attitude of the word around us, forgetting who we really are. But if we know who we are, we don't need people to care about who we are. Why? Because we are in a constant state of need. We need each other's help and if you can act out of an authentic drive and do something useful for other people, what you do can be valuable and reflect who you are at the same time.
You yell at the stranger to call 911 and he becomes irritated with you. He asks you why you're being so shallow and selfish. He might not have medical training, but don't you care about any of his other good qualities? Can't you see how good of a man he is and how much he wants to help? Why don't you care about him rather than just his qualifications? How could you be so rude in light of all of his good qualities? Shouldn't you give him the chance to perform surgery on your loved one? After all, you really do believe that he wants to help and that his intentions are good. You actually consider it for a short moment. Then a fresh wave of panic washes over your loved one as they feel their life slipping away. They scream in pain "Fuck off, I need a doctor! Now!" The stranger looks confused and hurt and walks away.
And why does the world seem so cold? Are our needs really so drastic that compassion is irrelevant? Maybe. There certainly are very compassionate people in this world, but we only recognize them when they do something useful. Thing is, that's okay. We don't know people by who they are, we know them by what they do. To get the world's respect we need to do things the world needs and the world is full of people who need things, lots of different things. So many different things that nearly all of us can find something useful to do that speaks the truth about who we are. People need houses built, we need food to eat, we need entertainment, fulfilling sexual relationships, loving friends, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and a million other things that each of us can meet in our own way. By virtue of the fact that you were born, you signed a contract to help a world in need and in return get your needs met. It wasn't something any of us chose, but we became a part of a system, a system purely utilitarian and compassionless; a system known as society.
Either you will go about your life working to make this system you were born into better, or you will complain and suffer at the inhumanity of it all. You could become a hermit and rebel against society, living off the land far away in a cabin, recycling your waste, growing vegetables and feeding some livestock, living far away from any other human being, feeling disconnected from the insanity and selfishness of the world. But don't get it twisted; you're still a part of the system. As much as any of us would like to get away from it all, what other people do will still affect you. If war comes you'll still be a combatant, if disease or natural disaster strikes, you won't have the resources you need to survive. And though you may not see how you can change the world, you have a much better chance if you participate in it. We need solutions to our many problems. By helping others, you help yourself in the process. The task of seeing those needs met is done by learning a useful set of skills. You may not see how it helps the world at large in the long term, but you don't even need to see that. It makes life easier in the short term because the world needs people to contribute and you will be rewarded. No matter how kind, giving, and polite you are, you need to have something to offer to others or people will not respect you. You will be poor, you will be alone, you will be left out in the cold, you will complain, and no one will care.
There is a certain truth about the virtue of selfishness. If one truly cares about himself then he will want to make the world a better place because he must live in that world too. If you really see the interconnected nature of humanity, that regardless of how far you run away that the actions of other people will still affect you, you will see that improving the lives of others and caring about the planet as a whole will, in some way, further your own self-interests. When you choose a charity to contribute to, don't you want to feel good about it? Admit that it is not only about wanting to help those in need, but to see yourself as the type of person who is helping those in need, and feel good about it. Knowing that you're making a difference in the world is very fulfilling. We rarely see this as transactional or selfish, but in some ways it is.
Being a good mother is a job that requires a lot of skills, it may not make you money, but it is an important job. If you're a woman who raises a child, you are a mother. That may not be all that you are, but you are your job. A job is no more than something we can do that is useful to other members of society. It doesn't necessarily have to involve money. Make no mistake, your "job", the useful thing you do, is exactly who you are to other people. Tyler said, "You are not your job," but he also founded and ran a successful soap company and became the head of an international social and political movement. He was also his job. In fact that is all he was. I think a lot of people missed that beautiful irony at the end of the movie, especially if they happened to agree with him.
You don't have to like it. I don't like it. I hate it actually. I wish people cared, but that's not how the world works. People have needs, and thus, assign value to the people who meet them. It is a simple and cold mechanism that gets things done. If you protest that you're not a shallow capitalist materialistic whore asshole and that you disagree with me about everything I wrote thus far, there is a special place in my heart for you. The world needs you too. The world needs you to disagree with my way of thinking, if only to strengthen the arguments for explaining the transactional nature of society. I certainly don't blame you for feeling the way you do. I hope you find peace in reconciling your view of the world with the way things really work. I hope that you don't lose hope. I hope you find someone who loves you for who you are. And I want to help you.
I'm sorry, I know that this is hard to hear, but if all you can do is list a bunch of traits you have or a bunch of faults you don't have then you're shit out of luck. Thing is, if you really are all those good things, you can find a way to show it. It's up to you to find out how, but don't complain about how people only want stuff from you. You want stuff from them too. It's time you stop seeing that exchange of wants and needs as being victimized. If you're willing to sit quietly and listen in exchange for the chance to be heard, then you demonstrate that you're a good listener. It's a valuable relationship skill to possess. A good conversation is transactional in nature. You have to give in order to get. Let's hope that you have some qualities that many people need or want in their lives. But that isn't enough. If you want to find love start making yourself into the type of person someone would want to be around by learning how to demonstrate those inner qualities.
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