My answer lately has been, “Nothing of consequence.”, and the reactions to that have been interesting to note.
One of the more mature human beings I know, Mark Lyndersay, took it in stride, perhaps because I have been uncharacteristically open with him a few times.
Others, though, seem boggled by my response. The modern human condition, most certainly as fatal as it ever was, comes with a need to demonstrate some level of progress to others. It is expected that the progress will be exaggerated to some degree – some overdo that – but there is this need to report some level of moving forward in the context of society.
Buying a house. Buying a car. Getting a better job, or promotion, a new significant other, the removal of an old significant other… all the way down to minutiae, like buying new clothing or something that somehow is supposed to improve status.
And this, in turn, is used by others who are connected to you to show others the value of their status being connected to you, and so on. This is how those networks are built.
So to tell people you are doing nothing of consequence, whether true or not, is amusing, and I think productive.
In 100 years, no one will really care too much for my accomplishments. I daresay that, though I am connected to people who have accomplished much in this era’s context, their accomplishments will not be seen as that great 100 years from now. In reality, most people I know have contributed not much of consequence for 100 years from now except some of the better photographers and writers I know, and even then, relevance fades and is fickle in resurrection.
The reality is that despite this social need for status, as well as the drive some of us have to simply do things, most of what we do doesn’t matter as much as we would like to think. As individuals, we are sand, as societies, we are bodies of sand.
The dunes shift with the winds, and are of no true consequence. Humanity seems content this way.
When I was growing up, the world seemed different. Space, that ether around this little planet, was to be explored, even as Jacques Cousteau had opened the undersea world to us through his apparatus, expertise, and broadcast networks.
Perhaps it was my youth, and my young mind, but it seemed we as a global society had some purpose as nations competed in throwing things into space and trying to get them to stick.
In my early twenties, I would watch shuttle launches until they became mundane. Shuttles coming and going were simply a fact of life in Florida, and while what they did was at first interesting, it soon passed into the background noise of the Internet building into a crescendo.
That novelty has has passed into mundane with a generation now with noses to flat screens, oblivious to what is around them.
In the end, I don’t know many people who are doing anything of consequence.
I just happen to have grown to be honest about it.