Where are you from? Why are you here? If you are not one of us, you must be here to take what’s mine…
Gangs fight over streets, blocks, or anything that has some perceived value. Countries bicker over disputed territory. Corporations, political parties, religions, you name it, all fight over the rights to some geographic or ideological claim to ownership. Of course I recognize that there is usually some real short-term advantage that these groups obsess over, but it’s often like we focus on a leaf, yet miss the branch, the tree, or the entire forest that is before us.
At the heart of each fight is the perceived value of that thing they fight over. What I find interesting is that we spend so much energy focused on the things we fight over that we seldom as if the value justifies the quarrel.
That’s the essence of this post, challenging us to broaden our perspective and re-evaluate our valuation.
On a trip to Iceland, I marveled at seeing black sand beaches for the first time. While I debated how to collect some sand to take back home with me, one of the locals said, “we have tons and tons of that here… if you can find a way to sell it, we can get rich together.” As I laughed, I began to form my views on the arbitrary nature of what we consider to be precious.
When we think something is rare, or are told so, we innately ascribe a higher value to it. We desire it, we compete for it, and once attained, protect it at all costs. Future generations continue that fight, never questioning the futility of the prize.
Okay, I’m being a little abstract. A tangible example is that of the value of diamonds. Many reports claim that diamonds are actually not that rare of a gem, but the industry has masterfully created a narrative to justify their premium. Gangs fight over areas that are actually owned by the local municipalities. The fact that they are killing each other over territory that they can never actually own, is never discussed. They fight because they’ve always fought.
I struggled to write this because there is no “solution.” However, I would be happy if we can just slow down the pace and intensity of conflicts by asking a few questions:
What makes that thing that I am fighting for valuable?
Are there other similar alternatives that I just have not seen yet?
Has what was once valuable become less so over time?
Is there a larger, more beneficial pursuit that is a better use of my time and energy?
While we fight, does someone else benefit from our focus on the little things?
I could go on, but I wanted to drop a grain of black sand into your mind and hope that it will one day become a beautiful pearl. At the same time, I do hope you are asking yourself, “… how valuable are pearls anyway?”