I have recently made a grave error, committed a sin that is antithetical to everything that I have ever believed in, everything I have committed to, that very thing that gets me up in the morning — I weighed my soul. Disgraceful. It was made in a moment of weakness, but that does not make it any better. No, I did not just weigh my soul, I tied it down, subjected it to doubt, threw stones at it and called it a failure before discarding it in favor of the material, those things that are, quite ironically, immaterial. I left it in the dust. I insulted it. I hurt it, when it did no wrong.
Does the soul even have weight?
I think one of the more insidious gifts of the industrial revolution was our newfound ability to measure our self-worth. They were measuring everything back then. Machine parts. Coal mounds. The spindly threads winding out the back ends of cotton gins. Everything could be measured, and everything could be operated, and the measure of your worth was based on how much you could operate. Spin that cog. Turn that wheel. Don’t get smelted, who’s going to push that press if you do?
We may be a long time past the age of smoke and fire, but our social institutions still seem one in the same. The politics, the economics, the disparities between the classes and the genders, all this, yes — and the institutions that weigh down upon the worker. The ones that weigh down on you and me, that dictate your worth not based on the number of smelty things you’re able to smelt in a day, not anymore, but now on the amount of profit you bring in to your family, your company, to your very own name, a name that is now put up on a scale and weighed against fistfuls and bagfuls and whole mountains of dollar bills.
And so into the jaws of self-worthlessness I found myself flung. Difficulties finding work is what it was, a common problem, an easy problem, hardly even a problem for someone as motivated as myself. And yet it left in me a yawning void, a gaping hole that tore at my insides, screaming, shouting, reminding me that I am not being productive, that the human race does not benefit from my existence, that there are no fistfuls or bagfuls or whole mountains of dollar bills to my name or my soul and that, rather, they are worthless and weightless and unable to contribute. Work? You want work, says the voice nagging at the side of my brain? Well good luck, you starving piece of crap, because you’re not good enough. See all those companies lining up for you? All zero of them? That’s how much you’re worth. Hope your girlfriend still loves your sorry ass. Eat dirt.
So in the dirt I found myself, staring up at the sky, wondering if anything would become of me and how anyone could ever really love someone like. I stared up at the sky — and realized something. For all the weights that drag me down, the chains and shackles that bind me to insecurity, the nagging voice that nips at my ears telling me I’m not worth it, not contributing anything, not providing a service to society — I could still look up at the sky and breath deeply. I could still look up at the sky and see that it was beautiful, or down on the faces of the downtrodden and see that they were beautiful, see the fish in the sea and the birds in the trees and the marginalized going about their shanty homes and slums and say, all of you are beautiful, and I will do something about it. In staring up at the sky I found my soul flying free, free of its shackles, free to spiral through the sky as it explores the world. No company can weigh me down. No employer, no generous benefactor, no, because, yes, dear sirs, my soul is worthless. It is worthless and it is weightless, and it is precious because of this. While I may not die the richest, die the most successful, I will have lived happy with the knowledge that my soul knew no measure, that it was free to caress the highest tips of the tallest clouds in complete and curious freedom.
July 12, 2018