Does It Matter?

There are probably thousands of sayings and slogans to remind us not to worry about small matters.  Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.   In Sweden, they say, Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.  Al-Anon suggests that if we ask ourselves, How important is it? we’ll see that much of it isn’t.   Richard Carlson says that, It’s all small stuff and asks, Will this matter a year from now?  My friend, Ralph, who has a particularly earthy way with words, says, I don’t want to be pole vaulting over rat shit.  Or something like that.  OK, I agree, we all get spun up over things that are inconsequential in the larger scheme of life.   But I’m sorry.  Sometimes, we face mountains that cast a big shadow.   It isn’t all small stuff and, yes, Richard, some things will matter in a year.   Dr. Ron Hershel, the engineer-philosopher I talked about in Touched Lightly, upped Richard Carlson’s ante by asking his Linear Algebra class, Will it matter in 100 years?   This is a slippery slope that may end up where Albert Camus did in The Stranger, concluding that Nothing Matters.   Then what?

In a post titled Nothing Matters on, Jim Sloman writes eloquently of finding peace and joy in the belief that nothing matters, which he says, becomes the very thing that transforms into thankfulness, bubbling up in surrendered gratitude for this precious life and all its appearances, like a compassionate, mysterious and effervescent spring bubbling up from the meaningless nowhere of nothing.    He even addresses the question I ask when I see this destination down the road: How do I find passion … or a sense of purpose … in a world where Nothing Matters?   Sloman answers with a quote from Don Juan, the Yaqui Indian sorcerer from Carlos Casteneda’s books on Nigual sorcery.  Don Juan said that you realize that everything is empty and meaningless and yet you act as if it had meaning … though you’re perfectly aware of the emptiness of all things, of all phenomena, you act as an impeccable warrior just the same.

I found that notion quite appealing in my not-so-spiritual forties.  These days, not so much.  You could say that at sixty-eight being an impeccable warrior is harder than at forty, when the end seems like a distant horizon.  You’d be right.  But at sixty-eight, I like my passion and I want to have a sense of purpose.  I’ve spent twenty years following a spiritual path in which I ask only for knowledge of God’s will and the power to carry that out.  It is indeed a choice which some might see as delusional, an old man’s crutch as he moves toward his own end.   But in my life and the lives I’ve witnessed, I’ve seen how small acts and events have echoed through lives for years.  My Dad chose to join the Army instead of going to engineering school, a decision which influenced me to go to engineering school.   If he’d have been an engineer instead of a toolmaker, I wouldn’t have dropped out of Stevens Tech to go to the less-expensive University of Connecticut, so I wouldn’t have met Muri.  Perhaps, if he hadn’t converted to Catholicism to marry my Mom, I wouldn’t have been so ready to marry a Jewish woman.  Being an engineer led to the job in Rhode Island where we met our friends, Don and Jackie, who we followed to California in 1971.  Where we adopted our two children.   Our choices echo through their lives and those of our grandkids in ways yet to be seen, for better or for worse … almost 100 years after my Dad was born.   So, I have evidence … things matter.   Yes, I am a scientist … I could rapidly build a case for the opposite.   I’m just happier not doing so.

If I’m wrong … and Albert Camus is right … what does it matter?

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7 Comments on “Does It Matter?”

  1. cherperz Says:

    I, too, pray prayers seeking the knowledge of God’s will, and asking for the wisdom and the strength to follow it. I don’t think it is delusional. I am not a person of science,…at least not in an occupational capacity as you are, yet, I seem to be a person that requires proof or subordination for most things. Operating on blind faith is a challenge. I wish, I was resolute in my beliefs, it all made sense and I never questioned anything.
    I like things all wrapped up…neat and tidy… and with a pretty bow for good measure.

    As for the line “will it matter in 100 years?” Our actions today possibly could send out a ripple effect. A small act today on your behalf could cause someone to take an action that impacts someone else, and cause that person to take an action….and so forth and so forth…

    Who is to say what is inconsequential????

  2. Your wrong/right between you and Albert Camus is sort of like the debate over the existence of God: if, in the end, believers find that He doesn’t exist, what will it have mattered that they believed during their lives? (Those who don’t start wars over it or use it to justify ignorance, that is.)

    Small things truly don’t matter sometimes – and sometimes they do because they set off a series of events. You go to one restaurant instead of the other and you get food poisoning and a huge hospital bill. Or you leave five minutes late, flustered, and come upon a bad accident you could have been in if you had left on time.

    in the end, there’s no way to know which little things matter and which don’t. But I think deciding what to do for a living, where to go to school, etc. are not small things, and they do matter, as you have very keenly demonstrated! So then the question becomes: what is small?

    • oldereyes Says:

      The problem is that when I’m anxious … and both Muri and I are right now over family (read grown children) issues, everything bugs me. That’s why I’m on the topic, to remind myself. Had the first post-Clexa panic attack this week, or at least started to. headed it off with a xanax, though.

      • I hear you, completely. I’ve read your mentions of the frustration of what you’re dealing with. I hope things find a final resolution soon, so that you and Muri can rest and your children can be the adults they are meant to be. And I hope the anxiety eases up. That can be such a self-defeating thing, and you have no control over it.

  3. territerri Says:

    The “nothing matters” theory feels like trickery of the mind to me. Convince yourself that nothing matters but act as if it does? My mind would see right through that.I have trouble believing there’s a purpose to a life where nothing matters and if we have no purpose here, why do we bother?

    No, I think everything matters. It’s just that some things matter more than others.

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