Does mattering mean money, and vice versa?

There’s a couple posts I’ve seen today that are approaching a sensitive topic, from two very different perspectives, and they are both sort of stirring my mental pot for a second.

Okay, I’ll set the stage here. A little backstory: We are currently over ten years into one of the most crushing, extensive, and debilitating global economic collapses in well over a century. Let’s just let that sink in for a second.

Worst.

Economic.

Collapse.

EVER.

Okay. Onward.

The first, from Beyond the Notes, consists of a musician mulling the importance of music in a world ruled by money.

The second, from Sticks and Drones, consists of a musician mulling the importance of money in his world, ruled by music.

I’m having very strong, very distinct reactions to both of these. The first seems to me to be a working musician (whom I happen to like, full disclosure) feeling put upon, and wondering to herself whether what she does matters, if she is having such trouble making ends meet while doing it. “If I can’t make rent doing what I’m doing, does that mean it doesn’t matter?” Honest questioning.

The second seems to be arguing that because what he does matters so much more than other people, he should make rent before they do, and even if they can’t.

More full disclosure: I don’t know the second blogger, and I admit that his attitude has ticked me off, which is why I feel sympathetic toward the first and … ungenerous toward the second.

There seems to be a world of difference between wondering, “Do I matter if I can’t make money?” and “I matter more than others, so where’s my money?” I don’t sense entitlement in the first question, but I do in the second.

Over and above the whole entitlement question though, there’s an error in both cases that I think might need to be pointed out. And here I am, The Finger. 🙂

Money and mattering have very little to do with one another.

Mozart had to fight constantly to get paid. His patron was a tight-fisted aristocratic jerk. Van Gogh never sold a single painting in his life.

Whether you make money at something hasn’t got a damned thing to do with whether it “matters,” or not. There’s a whole lot of seriously nasty people in this world who are rolling in money! We would not be any worse off if Donald Trump evaporated off the face of the Earth right now. Hell, we’d probably be better off. And that guy’s rolling in it.

Making a living and mattering are totally unrelated. Release yourself from the shackles of expecting the universe to reward you because you matter.

Making a living is like brushing your teeth, clipping your nails, or defecating. To an extent, it’s just something we all need to do to keep ourselves in good fettle so that we can hang around on the soil and do what we really want to do.

If we’re lucky, we can make a living in a manner that we enjoy, and that doesn’t crap up the place. (Clubbing baby seals, strip mining, drug selling, slavery, etc.) And of course, if we have the opportunity to not crap up the place, we’re kind of obligated to take it.

But that’s not the same as mattering.

Money and mattering are completely decoupled. You will not be rewarded financially for mattering. Ohmigawd, it would be so nice if we were. But we’re not.

I know I keep mentioning the redoubtable Zoe Keating in this blog to the point where people might be sick of hearing her name, but she keeps being quotable. She started in this biz when she was 8, and had a very tough time of it. And yet she says, with the ugly wisdom born of having survived the tech crash of the 90s, as I did: “Just because I sell music today doesn’t mean I’m going to sell music tomorrow. It’s up to me to remain relevant.” (Source: paraphrase from a talk at a MIDEM conference — money quotes begin at 17:30 — and pretty much every other talk she’s ever given.)

So anyhow, please do not think that if you are having trouble with money right now, you don’t matter. OMFG don’t think that. See statement above about the most crushing, extensive, and debilitating global economic collapse in well over a century.

And also, don’t think that because what you do matters, you shouldn’t be having trouble with money when everyone else is. There is no security in this world until the first spadeful of dirt hits the lid of your coffin. And by then, you don’t care.

Seriously, if Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart couldn’t manage to get paid on a reasonable schedule, please don’t feel insignificant because you’re having trouble making ends meet.

And don’t feel entitled, either.

I’m reminded of a quote from Joss Whedon: “If nothing we do matters, then the only thing that matters is what we do.” Just keep going. You’ll be fine.

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