Is it possible for us, as human beings, to live our lives without the sense of rank? That is, can we exist without being able to apply importance to things in our lives? Can we see all things as equal? I think the answer is obviously an emphatic ‘No!” And since I will probably never go back to school for my Master’s degree (let alone a Doctorate), let me provide you with the quick and dirty on what would have been the subject of my thesis.
What separates us from all other animals on earth is our ability to interpret and rationalize our emotions. Emotions themselves do not make us unique, but rather our ability to process them. And it is through emotions that we can have the concept of value. Whether it’s our value of life, value of freedom, or the 99 cent value meal item at Wendy’s, we cannot appreciate something’s worth without first attaching feeling to it.
Case in point. I am a huge Dan Marino fan, and in 1994 I purchased his Topps rookie card for about $45. Back then it was a steal, and although the card peaked at $120, it’s now down to only $80. As an aside, with Dan’s HOF induction this August, I am sure the card’s value will go up. But it’s a moot point because I will never get rid of that card. It means too much to me. To my mom, it’s just a piece of printed cardboard (no emotion). To me, it’s playing two-hand touch in the street with my neighbors. It’s sitting in the nose-bleed section of the Orange Bowl. It’s Sunday afternoons in front of the TV with my dad. It’s a world of emotion, and that card, to me, is priceless.
So now that I have established the connection between human emotion and value, it’s only logical that we apply hierarchy to things in our lives. What are our priorities in life? What are the things that matter most to us? “Play with the kids or watch TV?” “Pay the mortgage or buy some wine?” “Live according to others’ expectations or be true to myself?” Why do we choose to prioritize, or not prioritize, the things we do? Sometimes the reasons are clear. Yet other times, the answer is so vague and unknown it makes you wonder if there even is a reason.
I was with a friend recently and we came up with a catchy slogan that somewhat captures the spirit of my ‘thesis’. Simplify before you die. Assess those things in life which are important to you. Take note of those things in life which make you truly happy and ‘add value’ to your day-to-day. Take a good, long, hard look at your priorities. Then eliminate the static and run with whatever is left over. Simplify before you die. It should be first on your things to do in life.