We all want to be useful. But we don’t want to be used. So being useful becomes a balance between being helpful and being a pain in the ass.
At the outset, to be useful sounds like a noble existential goal, but something about it sounds disturbing. Because what exactly does being useful mean? The spectrum ranges somewhere between your dad forwarding you an email about the benefits of artichokes to your Dad being Woody Allen.
Our need for utilitarian stardom has a repressed consequence. Anytime people do something shitty — there’s a multitude of “what’s the use questions” to guilt-trip them into a spiral of uselessness.
“What’s the use of meditating if you still get angry?”
“What’s the use of reading books if you still say dumb stuff?”
“What’s the use of all the travel if you can’t accept people for what they are?”
“What’s the use of worshipping God if you are horny all the time?” It’s the artichokes.
Hating yourself through this process is one thing, but to direct this self-hatred out on everyone else is an indirect route to being a complete dick.
Our usefulness is validated by the need to be extracting use out of everything all the time and then reminding people how they are failing in their attempts.
When this becomes an obsession, to be helped by people who want to be useful feels like a massive burden, because you are now a part of the grand-design gag-inducing goal of theirs that must show a sense of progress for both of you without which they would feel used, so you now have to live up to some shitty ideal you never signed up for. Like watching Game of Thrones.
Meditation, reading, religion, and whatever-your-preferred-choice-of-getting-shit-faced-is aren’t different things. They are all attempts to come to terms with the all-encompassing uselessness of everything. To do any of it for perfectibility or worse, to expect perfection of people just because they do seemingly useful stuff is missing the whole point. It’s why being used feels like a function of being ordinary while being useful feels like something of the extra-ordinary when it really should be the other way around.
To be useful is the willingness to be used up by imperfections.