I have struggled with this question for years. Not only with figuring out the value that I can provide to society, but the value I have for myself. But, even though you can find blueprints of how to build an atomic bomb online, answers to the question: “How do I fit in with society?” remained elusive, almost non-existent.
The problem wasn’t that no answers to this question were out there though, it was that I did not know where to look.
But before we talk about individuality, let’s just put the question of self worth and value into a better evaluatory perspective: The market for any kind of goods or services is based upon a myriad of factors, with the most important ones being supply and demand.
When anything enters this market then, it is judged on its availability — how much of it can any one consumer get, how much can be produced in a certain time frame, how easy it is to deliver etc. — and the amount of people that have a need for it.
The amount of people that are exactly like you or me is precisely 1 and never more. Such a low supply then does bring up the question of effect — our capacity to produce change in the world via out ability to solve problems.
If I am working as a greeter in a store, my effect on the world is quite small; if all I do is engage customers when they enter the supermarket, the amount of problems I solve is minuscule compared to someone that manages all the greeters. They on the other hand solve a much smaller problem for the store than the head manager or owner does and the problems that the board of directors solve are again greater than all of the previous vocations put together.
In the end it all comes down to the complexity of the puzzles that any one of us is able to solve.
But unlike standard vocations, the field of identity is the most diverse, most niche product available — just imagine a job description for someone that would need to replace you!
Who would they replace? You as a son or daughter? You as a mother or father? You as a coworker, employee, accountant, basketball player, art collector, steak lover or vegetarian? The definition of you is by all means ineffable. There is only one person like you, because it would be impossible to even grasp the totality of who you are.
Even worse, you are constantly changing and evolving! One day you might be interested in football, as you were since your childhood, but then you suddenly stop. The topic, for whatever reason, has become stale, uninteresting and you change from someone that loved football to someone that only likes it a bit.
My point is, it is impossible to define you, because to be honest there is no fixed identity to be defined. We are in a constant state of flux and to look at any one of us as a thing, a definable object or subject is ludicrous. It is much better to compare us to a force; an ongoing, present pressure on the world around us; ever changing, ever evolving and absolutely never staying completely still.
How then can we expect of us to be able to define our worth, if we indeed fail to even define what we are? The same question could be asked about the nature of words, especially adjectives like large, small, cold and hot … What is hot, if not the antonym of cold? But what is cold then, if not merely the opposite of hot?
Were we to present this question to a computer or an alien, that has no nervous system and no ability to feel hot or cold, they could never give us an answer. It is in fact a paradox to try to define cold and hot on the merit of coldness and hotness alone.
And yet none of us have any problems with either concepts; when laying on the beach in the summer, sun shining and warming our bodies, we say it is hot outside. When a cool breeze suddenly blows our way, it gets cold. It’s obviously not rocket science, but it’s not as simple as it looks either.
The breeze is not some kind of wi-fi transfer of information, and our skin a sort of universal USB plug that can decipher it, in order for us to understand that the temperature has dropped by X amount.
The only thing that defines such subjective changes is context. Context alone makes the winters cold and summers hot, because it gives us the ability to compare the two and make a qualitative decision. Only via this comparison can we actually know what either of the two (or more) concepts being scrutinised are.
And context is the only real judge of how much value we have in our society, but more on this tomorrow.