The great existential question of our personal existence always comes back to, “Do I matter?” That can be subdivided into several categories, such as, do I matter to myself, my family, my friends, my species, my Earth, my Universe? This hierarchical relationship is based on propinquity, that is, closeness to my physical being, and generally, we feel our responsibility to be more relaxed for those categories with the greater physical distance from our bodily selves.
But, no, that can’t be a good definition because we are infinitely bound to our Universe, and only a few of us ever break the bonds to our Earth such as the astronauts, and they are more dependent on civilization functioning quite well even to survive. Most of us can get along physically for a while with modest help from our species by just behaving ourselves. Our friends can give us the conversational social support that we seem to need to be comfortable living within a society. Our family shares with us the physical things like shelter, food, and physical security to maintain our physical lives.
Then we come to ourselves. But, what is that? Our body? Yes, that’s important; for without that functioning reasonably well we couldn’t exist. Is it our brain that is the thing that really matters? Well, yes that’s important too, but isn’t that just part of our body and no more important to our functioning than any of the other vital organs? Is our brain any more important than our spleen? Perhaps it’s the mind that is critical to our mattering, that is, the thoughts and habits that we have self-created through our biological heritage, our social environment while developing and our ponderings over our actions in response to our environment that turn into habits that create our importance … at least to ourselves.
Or, does our real life satisfaction come from our relationship to others, at least to others who are important to us and whom we feel that we are important to? We can have many different kinds of relationships with others and every one of them is going to be unique. We want our relationships to be unique but not so unique that they feel dangerous. We want to feel comfortable with what is happening but not so comfortable that it is boring. We want to feel that we are interesting to those people we are relating to so they will be willing to interact with us.
All of this requires a balancing of a potential infinity of variations, but those must be within the bounds that I can cope with, but they must be interesting to matter to me.
It always comes back to I and we, but where do our dogs and cats fit in?