Periodically my brain comes up with Profound Cosmic Observations. This weekend it is... (drum roll please)...
Everything is equally important.
Meaning, whatever we experience at any given moment possesses the same existential value. This applies both to me and other people.
In other words, whatever I'm doing, it's equally worthy of my awareness and attention. Ditto for what anyone else is doing. The experience of an Indian rickshaw driver is equal to that of a Wall Street options trader.
I got to pondering this oh-so-ponderable notion yesterday as I was putting together some replacement bar stools for our kitchen counter.
Now, it hadn't occurred to me that we even needed new bar stools. But my wife is far more knowledgeable in the home decorating arena than I am. So almost always I bow to her judgement in such matters. Which led to me sitting on the living room rug, surrounded by pieces of two bar stools that Laurel had ordered from Cost Plus World Market, and I'd picked up.
When the World Market guy was loading the large box into our SUV, I told him, "Is it OK if I phone you at midnight with a question about how the hell these stools go together? They don't come with IKEA-like instructions, do they?"
He laughted and replied, "Call my boss. She's in charge of things like that. You shouldn't have any trouble assembling them, though."
Sort of true.
However, the instructions were in Chinese English. Pretty clear, though with a few puzzling aspects. Such as the fact that the instructions referred to four long bolts and four short bolts. Yet each stool came with eight long bolts.
Which ended up fitting. After a bunch of fiddling.
My theory is that underpaid and overworked Chinese workers who make furniture express frustration with their working conditions by drilling some holes just a tiny bit off-center. Not enough to attract attention. Just enough to give the eventual buyer fits when he or she tries to get the last bolt holding a chair leg on to thread properly.
Midway through the bar stool assembling process, after I'd spent ten minutes or so working on a recalcitrant bolt, I began to think, Is this how I should be spending my precious time in what almost surely is my one and only precious life?
Sitting on a rug. Allen wrench in hand. Fiddling with bolts on bar stools that, until recently, I didn't even know were needed to replace the stools that I'd been satisfactorially sitting on for many years.
But then I realized that whatever I could have been doing instead wouldn't be any different. After all, every moment I'm alive and conscious, I'm experiencing something. If I started to divide these moments into worthy and unworthy, important and unimportant, significant and non-significant -- that way lies madness.
So to speak. Not clinical madness. Just the illogical frustration of believing that what I am doing now isn't what I should be doing.
That the present moment has gone awry; an existential error has occurred; I have been cast into a life experience that shouldn't be happening, and a more desirable one has been lost in an alternative potential reality.
The absurdity of this manner of thinking became obvious to me even as I continued to assemble the bar stools.
It is natural to look some experiences as more pleasant than others. Or as more satisfying than others. I can't equate getting a root canal with lying on a warm tropical beach. However, each is equally important in the cosmic scheme of things.
Each is an experience that, um, I am experiencing. Each is part of what exists in a space-time continuum. Each is what I am aware of during a limited lifetime that has only so many awarenesses.
At the end of the day I felt good seeing the bar stools all assembled. I guess I could have worked on a novel, composed a symphony, sought a cure for cancer, or tutored low-income children. Instead, I put together two bar stools.
There's a peace of mind that comes with accepting whatever happens as what is happening. And accepting that whatever happens to other people, this is what is happening to them.
I don't know if what I've said here is more or less significant than what I've said before. It's just another of those damn things that happen, one after the other. All equally meaningful.