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Back3/23/24, 9:36 PM

What is valuable for you?

How do you value everyday events?

What is, or should be, the parameter to consider something valuable?

Recently I read Utopia, written by Thomas More. Giving a simple summary, the book contains a complete description of a society that lives on an island, where addictions, unemployment, hunger, and violence do not exist, just like the name of the book suggests, a true Utopia. The history explores the culture, citizen routines, jobs, religion, policy hierarchy, and the education system of this island.

Of all the interesting lessons and reflections provided by the reading, one caught my attention with intensity: the question about value. For Utopia citizens, nature provides the most useful materials in more abundance, while the most unuseful materials are scarce. So, for them, wood, water, and iron are more valuable than gold or pearls because of their utility. In our reality, the opposite is the rule. Most scarce, most valuable. But, how true is it? Can it be a rule in all situations? Should the value always be intrinsic to the rarity?

There are some examples, that are obvious to recognize the value of the utility replacing the value of the rarity. Think about a person who lives in a desert and has limited water to survive, and he needs to work hard to get more. If you offer one thousand liters of water and one ton of gold to him, what do you think he will probably choose? As I said, this is just a simple example to reflect on.

But let’s think more deeply about our lives. Is there something that you are giving value wrongly? Are you paying more than necessary to obtain things just because they are rare?

One example to consider: buying a new smartphone. What do you consider before a new acquisition? Because of computing resources, screen quality, camera resolution, and storage? Or is it just an exclusive model, the latest version, or contains “Pro” or “Plus” in the name?

I’m not suggesting you be an extreme utilitarian. I’m just provoking you to think about how your actions are conducted. Are you considering all facets of a decision?

Sometimes, the same “material” in the same quantity should be looked at under different perspectives of value. Let’s wonder about two scenarios.

In the first you have two choices: spend one hour scrolling social media or spend one hour studying something of your interest. Let’s think a little bit, and don’t worry, I will not demonize social media or tell you are wasting our time with it. Okay, what is the context of this situation? The rarity can be applied here? Are you enjoying one of the free hours in your day to relax a bit? If so, it’s a rare time for you. But if you have time and are wishing to improve your knowledge in some subject, maybe studying can be a more useful activity. What do you think?

In the second scenario, you need to choose between spending 1 hour studying something in your room or 1 hour at a dinner with an old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time. Should the utility be considered in this case? Let’s think about it. To consider something useful or not, we need to know the goal to be reached. What is our goal in this situation? Can talking calmly with a friend help me to improve my knowledge of finance, for example? Maybe not. But if your goal is to take care of your mental health, enjoy your friendship, and turn you into a more sociable person, it’s a great choice. So, before considering the utility, think about the goal.

Again, these are just two simple and isolated scenarios. My goal here is to lead us to think about value. Are we giving value for the situations considering only utility, rarity, or other parameters? In which situations do I need to reflect more on my actions? What is your goal with each action you take?

To conclude, I will not finish this with a pretty phrase like “Life is short…. enjoy your life… love the others”. I will just summarize all with a simple reflection. You have many resources to use (time, space, knowledge, money, etc). Are you thinking about where, when, and with whom are you spending it? Avoid the extreme decisions, they are bad and drain our peace and happiness, find your equilibrium.