What Matters Most

……or The Earth Day Ramblings of a Sun-porch Philosopher

I am keeping the pen companies in business.

I am keeping the pen companies in business.

I am currently working on my writing skills using a book of writing prompts. Some days are better than others. Today’s writing prompt was “Write about what matters” – here’s where it went:

Writing about what matters is tantamount to writing about the meaning of life! Give me a break here!! From what angle do I even approach this? Do I write about what matters to me or about what matters to the world in general? In an ideal world, one of selflessness, the answer should be one and the same, I suppose. It is kind of hard to wrap my brain around it all – it would be a real asset to have university degrees in anthropology and philosophy to answer the who and the what of this topic. I guess I can go at it from the view of the greater community. After all, aren’t communities developed from gatherings of people who share the same idea of ‘what matters’; people who have the same collective values? It could be anything from freedom from oppression, religious or otherwise, a love of nature, a behavioural standard, or just a bunch of people trying to get as far as they can from their in-laws. I jest. Or would it be more appropriate to type LOL – that seems to me to be the current manner of stating “I’m just joking”. LOL. I like it – it succinctly leaves less room for misinterpretation. Of course, just because you have qualified a comment with LOL doesn’t mean that it is not hurtful or inappropriate. Or does it ‘really matter’ anyway that we are aware that something is said in jest – there is often a lot of truth in what we find funny. I am thinking now about the case of the court jester – my knowledge of jesters sadly comes from TV shows about old English monarchy. According to TV, the humour expressed by jesters was often very harsh and biting. Does it matter if we laugh at something truthful; are we laughing at the truth or are we laughing at the manner in which it is presented? It depends. It depends on how much you care about hurting the feelings of others. Hey, eureka, there’s my answer to the question of what matters: “It depends.”

Seriously though, what really matters in the grand scheme of things? Does our behaviour matter? Sure it does. We make excuses for why we misbehave, but dang it, if we have the insight to realize why we are misbehaving, why can’t we just stop doing it altogether? (This could lead to a discussion on free will; I’m not going there) Or at least try. Good intentions matter, don’t they? Maybe not. Isn’t there an expression that goes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Then I guess what matters is that we follow through on our good intentions. In the meantime, if that old adage is correct, I am on a very slippery slope to the Devil’s own sun-porch.

Really, if you want to know how to behave you don’t have to look far. There are the ten commandments or the Buddhist ten grave precepts. There are the laws of the land, although the laws are not fool-proof as they were written by men and women who may be promoting a specific belief or politic which is very specific to their community. We can only trust that a law was written to maintain some kind of order, to keep us out of prison or the pillory, not to lead us to the Pearly Gates or to a state of Nirvana. It’s a pretty broad topic. I’m afraid I am not that deep. Oh my brain.

Here is what I think should matter (I tries, I do, but as Grandfather Parsons used to say “the flesh is weak”)

  1. It matters that no one suffers unnecessarily. Suffering will and does happen a’plenty at the hands of Mother Nature, Father physics. Suffering will always be there. So we don’t need to be going around finding ways to make it worse! So then, does it matter how far we go in trying to help alleviate the sufferings of others? Doesn’t that kind of thing set ourselves up to suffer ourselves? Why is it fair that one fellow suffer so that another does not? Unless you’re Jesus of course. He had a lot more guts than most of us. Sigh. Just do what you can, okay?
  2. It matters that we not destroy our planet to feed our wants. Yep, this one is a biggy. I once heard someone, don’t recall who, on CBC radio’s Morningside say “Unfortunately the human race has not yet learned not to soil its own nest.” As I see it, there are three groups on the scale of conscious evolution. A. Those who don’t know the difference, who don’t care where anything comes from. Fortunately this crowd can be educated. B. The people who know the difference but do it anyway. They range from the “I’ll just pitch this beer can/burning cigarette butt/fast food wrapper out the car window” crowd to the people who (I am in this category) persist in using disposable water bottles, shopping bags, etc. But feel guilty while they are doing it. They drive alone in cars to work among thousands of others driving alone in cars to work. It is a matter of convenience. C. The ones who devour resources intentionally, driven by greed and power. These are the big guns. The ones who squander resources until they are gone, resources which do irreparable harm to the planet by their extraction/processing. A sub-group of this category are the trained professionals who want to convince us that we need to buy things so that we can look a certain way, that if we eat a certain product we will be healthier. They fatten us up with soda pop and Count Chocula then turn around and sell us diet plans. It’s a fear-based campaign; we are made to believe that we are not pretty enough, not skinny enough, too old, that we won’t fit in, that we are not having enough fun. And if they can’t sell something to us by implanting those idea, they try and sell us mattresses, a new one every year, that’ll make us feel so much better. Oh, God, I feel a major rant coming on. (What do you mean with your one eyebrow lifted “Coming on?”) It’s a tough one: ever since our early hominid ancestor, who one morning, hearing his joints creak as he unfurled his  limbs off of the bare cave floor and decided he’d get a much better sleep if he stuffed pine needles into a woolly mammoth’s stomach (am I getting my man and beast evolutionary sequence confused here?) man has been on the hunt for the perfect mattress: one off the ground to keep the chiggers at bay. Where was I going with this? Aah, being driven by want, not need, and not only that, but being told by strangers what we want.
  3. It matters that we share the bounty. I love the theme song from “Malcolm in the Middle” which ends ….Life is unfair……. This ‘matter’ is immensely complicated. Should our share of the bounty be proportional to our contribution? Who gets to decide the value of any contribution? Are we born knowing that we should share, is it innate, or is it learned behaviour? Better add psychology to the list of necessary university degrees for a sun-porch philosopher. From my experience (motherhood) children can be very reluctant to share even though they have a pretty strong sense of what is fair. Because of this I learned to pour two glasses of juice in equal volumes down to the atomic level. I still buy two of every thing so one doesn’t have to do wait for the other to finish with it, or if I buy one a bike rack, the other gets shoes of equal value. Perhaps that was/is going a bit too far. Over-kill on the fairness plan. Which leads me to another list item.
  4. It doesn’t matter what the other guy has; our level of contentment is not dependent on us having it too. What really matters is that we have the things we need to be safe, healthy, and to support our creativity. I have no problem at all with disturbing a good chunk of earth to get metal to make fire extinguishers. Just stop when you have all the metal you need. Here in lies the rub. What do we need anyway? Stuff. Lots of stuff. This ‘need’ business, however, is always in flux. Take specimen A: to feel fulfilled this person may need a three-masted schooner with all the latest electronics for safety. On the other hand specimen B may find complete contentment in having just a pen and a pad of paper. Their needs could change from one day to the next. The schooner captain may drop anchor near some remote Pacific Island and realize that he no longer needs a boat, just a hammock, a fishnet and a good supply of pineapples. The B fellow might use his pen and pad to draw up the design for a mansion and then decide he would like to see it built. My point is, there are basic needs we all have for survival but beyond that our needs are very personal and need not be influenced by marketing. Like I said, I need a lot of stuff. That said, it is often stuff that no one else wants. Which takes me to my last point:
  5. It matters that we use everything to its full potential and then recycle what is left-over. There is so much wastage. I spent some time up North many years ago where everything that wasn’t taken off the land had to be flown in or brought by ship after the ice broke up. It nurtured a community of extremely creative people who wasted nothing. I think we should be more like them. What was I talking about anyway? Oh yes, what matters. We can’t all stop consuming and go live off the land. I loves my electric coffee pot, my clean running water, my access to evidence-based medical practice, and modern pharmaceuticals. I don’t have to cut the trees in my backyard to stay warm or to cook my food. But I hate how it is so much easier to buy a whole package of pens than to even find a package of refills. Or how, when I order something online it comes in seven layers of packaging. I like being able to buy strawberries out of season but I hate that they are covered in pesticide. I love that we are exploring the universe and that now we can recover a rocket after after launching a satellite but I hate that there is tons of space junk orbiting the earth as I type this. I hate that there is a large mat of plastic floating merrily about the Pacific ocean. It goes on and on.

It is earth day today. We need to mark that occasion by loving this planet as much as we would love our own children. So I guess what matters is that we try and keep it all in balance; the good with the bad. We need to never give up trying to be good custodians. That’s what really matters.

And for those of you who only look at the pictures:

Is this breakfast based on want or need?

Is this breakfast based on want or need? Want if I wish to please my tastebuds, need if I am looking for a way to clog off a few coronary arteries. Some good.

© Judy Parsons 2016

Comment by emailing JGParsons@judypstickletrunk.com  – the blog link for comments is dead

comment: from Cheryl

I wanted to drop you a short note to say how much I enjoy reading your blog.  You definitely have a distinct ‘voice’ and a great sense of humor.

comment reply: Judy

Thanks Cheryl, for taking the time to write. My family always took the approach “you might as well laugh as cry” 

Comment: from Lance

Re Need: in honor of the bard’s birthday today, and apt too:

O reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is as cheap as beast’s. Thou art a lady:
If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,
Which scarcely keeps thee warm.
Comment reply: Judy
Thanks Lance. I can always rely on you to represent the bard. 

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