Yesterday, I read an interesting NY Times opinion piece by Brian Jay Stanley titled, “On Being Nothing.” Stanley writes about feeling small, and about seeking recognition in a world where you are simply one among billions. In the column, one passage struck me in particular:
“Some days I feel so insubstantial that I am startled by signs of my visible presence in the world. On a recent afternoon walk, when my thoughts on these matters had gone somewhat too far, a dog rooting in the grass turned its head and barked at me. I turned my head toward the sound in surprise: I had made the rooting dog look up — therefore I did exist. True, the dog hated me, but in its bark I heard a vicious compliment, for it is better to be hated than ignored, hate being a form of acknowledgement, albeit negative.”
He goes on to ask why we crave attention so much, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. “Those who are dying worry about being remembered after death, though when dead, how can they care if they’re forgotten? As adults, our successes give us little pleasure unless sweetened by others’ admiration. If we dress up, there must be others to see us or our work seems wasted — no one wears a tuxedo at home.”
We all want to feel important – need to even. And different people get their fix in different ways. Whether it’s joining a religious community and having faith that you are an indispensable part of God’s divine and most-important plan, or finding a spouse and having children who will love you unconditionally… or writing a blog and counting every page view, an affirmation that someone considers what you write to be worth reading.
Not that unoften, I find myself feeling small. But then I tell myself that no productivity of any kind comes from self-pity (I try not to think too hard about what productivity really is or why it matters, but….). Sometimes it takes longer than other times, but eventually, I pick myself up, let go of my vanity, take a breath and move on.