Are you valuable?
In my personal and professional life, the word "value" keeps coming up.
- It surfaces in my mind when I think about this blog. What value do I want to give my audience?
- It crops up when I consider how to spend my time. How can I leverage my life?
Stephen R. Covey says, “The basic task of leadership is to increase the standard of living and the quality of life for all stakeholders." Is my life making the world a better place?
- It's a frequent topic in the workplace: What do you charge per hour? Per client? How many needs can you meet? Meeting needs is also a way we cultivate a sense of personal value.
In 2008, some friends and I were visiting Berlin...
While on the way to get some Gelato, we were caught off guard by the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It felt a bit like a graveyard and instantly evoked profoundly deep questions in me. The picture at the top of this post is one I took in 2008.
The unoriginal appearance of the blocks made an impression on me that felt infuriating. The rage inside me wanted to yell, “What?! This mundane set of squares is supposed to represent millions of lost lives?”
I wanted to cry. There was no color, no variation; just concrete uniformity, frozen and unchanging. It was like a graveyard for robots, but each robot didn’t even get their own headstone.
The cost of construction for the Memorial was $25 million euros. The memorial had an underground section that holds the names of around 3 million Holocaust victims. Does that mean each person was valued at little more than $8? Certainly not, but my mind shuddered in disgust as I mentally calculated the number.
I hated that my mind instantly wanted to value the lost lives in some quantitative, analytical way. I felt inhumane just being there, thinking those thoughts. As if it were possible. It reminded me of when Felicity was born— we decided to take out a life insurance policy on my wife. It’s not that it was a bad idea, it’s just that I was forced to calculate how much money would be sufficient to cover the practical duties of my daughter’s caretaker… God, I can’t even finish the sentence! I’m weeping just typing this right now.
Something feels troubling when I try to value human lives quantitatively.
My mind accepts the practice as a reasonable idea, but my heart hurts just considering such infinite loss. The loss of such tremendous value devastates me. No amount of money could replace my wife.
What is it that makes my wife so valuable?
Why is she irreplaceable to me?
The honest answer makes me tremble. It’s vulnerable and scary. It could hurt people if misunderstood. It could crush someone I love dearly if my words fail to penetrate to the core of her heart. If our imagined identities of who we are as separate beings don’t surrender to the Great Love. If our desperation for Love triggers that sense of loss and we recoil in pain rather than die to illusion.
The frightening-yet-liberating reality is this: my value for Julianne is not about how special Julianne is.
It’s about how special our relationship is. It’s about our connection. It’s about my experience of The Great Love. The immeasurable infinite value of what is between us, connecting us, unifying us… And it’s what I’ve experienced so much of in her presence. It’s that experience that we have shared again and again: The two become One.
But I’m pretending if I claim that we are the special ingredients. I am perpetrating, and I am a complete fraud if I say that. That’s like the proton looking at the neutron and saying, “What a spectacular nucleus I am!”
“Our love is a one in a million,” misses it by a hair. The reality is: Love is one in a million.
I’m hurting Love’s reputation if I discriminate and separate, dividing myself from the universe, touting, “I’m the value! I’m the value!”… and Love knows better. Love shows no partiality. Everyone (and everything) deserves this kind of connection, authenticity, and Love. And it’s always here, but sometimes we fail to see it.
We chase the question of, “Where is it? Is it over there?”
No. It’s right here.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Here it is. Oh wait, it’s gone now! (….)
Do you see it?
Crystallizing "individuality" and "special-ness".
When I say, “I am not special,” or, “Julianne is not special”… this is no insult to the true essence of Julianne or my self. It is merely a mechanism I’m utilizing. It’s a phrase chosen to move toward the Big that is beyond the Small. The trick that our mind plays on us is that we want our Small to be special by itself. The truth is the answer to a different question: is the Small meant to be alone? The victory is on an entirely different battlefield. We all triumph together. Triumphs are collective in nature.
Let me share a quote from one of my favorite books, Awareness by Anthony de Mello.
“The day that happens and your attachment to the drum drops, you will no longer say to your friend, "How happy you have made me." For in so saying you flatter his ego and manipulate him into wanting to please you again. And you give yourself the illusion that your happiness depends on your friend.
"Rather you will say, "When you and I met, happiness arose."
That leaves the happiness not contaminated by his ego and yours. Neither of you can take the credit for it. And that makes it possible for the two of you to part with no attachment to each other, or to the experience which your meeting generated, for you have enjoyed, not each other, but the symphony that arose in your meeting.”
Julianne and I have a special relationship. It is not special because of the ingredients. How special would a mountain range be if you didn’t have eyes? How special would the ocean be if you had no body?
Just as neither your eyes deserve full credit, nor the mountains, it is neither Julianne who deserves full credit, nor yours truly.
It is the connection. It is the love. It is the relationship. It is the essence!
Qualities and essence are infinite, not finite. And dear friends so is your value. You are not valuable because of the number of cells in your body, thoughts in your head, dollars in your wallet, or stocks in your portfolio.
Those things are produced by your value and can be participants in your value, but they are the notes on the page. You are the song.
And Mystery is the singer.
If you try to fully grasp your self, you are unwittingly trying to limit the limitless! I have great news: you will fail.
Do not try to bottle your strength.
Do not try to arrive at your destiny.
Do not try to calculate your value.
The ego wants to put a number on you.
The ego wants to box you in and lock you up.
The ego wants comfort and safety in something that’s not the whole you.
Embrace your true self.
Today, let go of thinking about your value and starting enjoying the immensity of your relationship to everything around you and everything inside you. You are such a wonderful mystery. Find yourself in the Love that is surrounding and permeating every part of you.
Love is opening your lungs with breath. Love is replacing the wrong with the right, the bad with the good, the death-inducing toxins with the life-enhancing energies!
Do you feel it? Can you see it yet?