Ever googled someone’s net worth? Want to know mine? Before we get there, here’s a riddle:
There are two people: one with a net worth of a billion dollars and the other with a net worth of a hundred thousand. If you had to feed one of them to a shark, who ‘d you pick?
Take your time.
Unless you are a psychopath or your name is Tom Riddle, there’s no way you can make a choice. And the additional information is just a distraction to evaluate how shitty a human being you are.
Anyway, back to the riddle: how about we throw in a third guy with a net worth of a 1000$?
Got any easier?
This is not a question about net worth as much as a question about what makes someone’s life worth living.
This question is at the invisible centre of everyday existence. You’d expect philosophy to have answered a question like this by now, but the closest philosophy has come is teleology (there’s an intrinsic meaning to your life – a destiny, and becoming shark food is just one) – and then there’s nihilism (your life is worth nothing; grow a walrus moustache as you wait for death). Although the two ideas have deeper connotations, they offer depressing explorations into the question.
The what-makes-life-worth-living question gains momentous importance when you are making the choice for someone else.
That’s when a raging, sickening yet significant debate ensues. Occasionally, asking questions like these to yourself help you identify your grand purpose and helps you do rad things. Most other times, all it does is turn you an insufferable douchebag with shitty values.
And it does one other thing: it makes you pick.
Like it or not, you are determining what makes someone’s life worth living, every day.
You don’t realize you are answering the question every time you see a drunk vagrant stopping traffic or stare into the dead eyes of the guy behind a counter or watch once august Grandpa lying in bed all day.
Having realized the larger implication of the question makes you sick and bury yourself in denial.
As you start finding answers to the question, you are determining the answers to other people’s question too. The net worth, let’s face it, is merely your first clue. Just a couple more clues and you are all set to pick.
Whether you actually use this information to feed someone to a shark is as irrelevant as the shark itself. The point is: You pick.
We all have a story for life. Money, power and fame have largely dominated this construct. Now, happiness and compassion have been thrown in because you need someone to drive you home. These are your clues in making the decision.
You won’t admit you are picking shark-feed. Because we have invented this cute term called judgement to cover up some of our most insane values.
Here’s what happens when you pick someone to be fed to the existential sharks:
You get in line to be picked yourself.
We judge, compare, mock. But none of it stands a chance against the lowest of lows we very often succumb to. The question what have he/she/they/YOU done? is not a question born out of anger. Behind the faux anger is something significant: you just picked.
This is how it begins: an innocent hypothesis. You will be warned early on to expand your clues: add happiness, compassion, empathy and subjective shit like that. Yeah, like you and I don’t know the reality: Either you put in a dent in the universe or, well, you may just as well die!
Or maybe not.
Because you have no clue what kind of impact your life, much less someone else’s, is going to have on the world. Because you have no clue what impact means, randy butterfly.
I am not going to revel you in crumby anecdotes about a million faceless, mostly dead, people and the influence they are having on your life, but it’d suffice to say what makes life worth living is more than what’s trending and popular: net-worth purpose, happiness or legacy.
Would you pick the billionaire if I told you he is going to lose all his money tomorrow? Would you pick yourself if I told you all your legacy and everything your accumulated will be erased (and it will be)?
Because if that’s what life is worth to you if that’s what your answer is, you are going to measure everyone’s life-worth on that scale. And soon enough, the sharks will come for you.
What makes your life worth living is a series of emotions way too complex for comprehension. That’s why a better question is what makes you worth life? Because in this case, life picks. And you have a very different sort of responsibility.
Life doesn’t give a shit about your net-worth or how many people you helped cross the road. It doesn’t care about the fact that you no one knows who you are. All it cares about is whether you were true to yourself and did your best to be conscious to the one wild and precious life you were given.
Are you giving life some meaning to look for in you? You think you are the painter, the actor, the attraction. But really, you are the canvas, the stage, the background. You are worth it, already. Now, make that count.