A tentative poet learning how to contemplate. You Are Useless refers not to nihilism, but to a trust in the goodness of the world, and the value of leisure and uselessness, despite existential worries.



  1. Hmm, I like this idea of “uselessness.” You’ve given me something to contemplate for today. Thanks. I look forward to reading your contemplations.

  2. I like your ideas and your writing…!

  3. Your description of “uselessness” reminds me of an alternative meaning of “hopelessness”. In zen thinking, it doesn’t mean despair, but giving up of trying for a certain outcome. of letting go of all projections for the future.

    Thanks for the new thought.


  4. I like the idea of celebrating “uselessness”. From my theistic viewpoint, it means that God did not create us for what we could do. He values us, loves us, enjoys us in our existence, not in the “profit” He might get from us. Somehow I can’t make it to trusting in the world’s goodness, though, and perhaps that is why God’s goodness is so central to my thinking. If you trust in the world’s goodness, how do you reconcile that with the evolutionary viewpoint (to pose the question I am usually posed)? I don’t really mean for you to feel that you need to answer that one unless you want to. It isn’t necessarily important; I’m just curious.

    • Well, to answer that I’d have to know what contradiction you see between a belief in the world’s goodness and an evolutionary viewpoint.

      • Well, evolution works by competition, the survival of the fittest. It is not a “friendly” process. Strictly speaking, an evolutionary viewpoint sees all the things we normally take as beautiful as being some scheme or other to gain an edge in procuring food or mates or whatever. Bird songs are territorial markers warning other birds away, beautiful flowers are signals to pollinators, etc. In its starkest terms it is nothing like what we would call good.
        Mind you, I am not a “creationist”. Creationism is a whole different problem. But evolution has always struck me as the most relentlessly grim of all ideas.
        Meanwhile, my leisure may be temporarily disappearing soon as I take a rather make-shift job that is probably pointless except for the paycheck. How depressing. One more step in survival. But the weather and the garden and the local denizens are good anyway in themselves as they go about their existence.
        I hope your new state is working out well. Long ago we lived in Missouri and a change in state worked out very well indeed for us. Oddly enough, we ended up in the what must be the nicest place to live in the world, though you would never guess it from a map.

  5. I see. I thought you might say something like that, but I wanted to make sure.

    I believe that joy and goodness are human inventions. This doesn’t make them meaningless to me, however — just because these things aren’t inherent to the world doesn’t mean that they aren’t inherent to us. (My wording on this About page is rather vague, I’m realizing — I might have to change it). I’ve been toying with the idea for a while that the invention of these things is the same as the things themselves.

    So, romantic love might be “for” procreation, but that doesn’t change our experience of it or make it any less meaningful — to us. And this “to us” is all we have, really.

    I hope this helps.


    • Yes, that does help, in the sense of satisfying my curiosity, which is perhaps over blown and shouldn’t be encouraged. Growing up in the sixties, perhaps, is one of the things that makes your answer not work for me. We were the generation, if ever there was one, that deliberately chose delusion over real, and that has made me very focused on the distinction. Joy and goodness may be human inventions, and that may be same as the things themselves, but I wouldn’t find it reassuring. The goodness of the creation is all very well as a human invention unless it turns on you and eats you. Romantic love is the best “human invention”, but it is also what enables spousal abuse.
      Your answer made me glad though. It implies that you have had a life that is relatively unscathed, and I pray that continues to be the case. Meanwhile, write more poems…

  6. I suppose my point is that we can never know whether ideas like Goodness are real or imaginary, but our experience of those ideas (if that makes any sense) is real.

    I’m also not sure whether romantic love and the motivations for spousal abuse are the same thing. I hope they’re not.

    • Yes, this does make sense. We can only know goodness by experiencing it, and the more we experience it the more surely we know. Experience eventually reveals the difference between delusion and reality, if we are willing to pay attention. Jonathan Edwards, of all people, said something very much like this. Not someone I am normally inclined to admire, but I am beginning to think his reputation is not totally deserved.
      Human inventions or feelings or virtues or whatever are always both good and bad, I think. What we have that gives us good can at another time be the instrument that harms us. At least that is my experience.

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  8. aftermath of reading your banter with youareuseless, I’ve decided that my comments come as close to your premise, or definition of the word, the truth of the matter… that what I have to say, indeed makes no one suffer or causes harm and my time is spent well… i am amused… i am a muse
    in search of something that my fingers are useless at, so, as THEY say… it’s back to the drawing board, again.

    i like your style and matter-of-factness and hope to like more in the coming weeks!
    ~Denise (dldselfnarration)

  9. I guess you have not had much leisure recently. Mainly I hope nothing is wrong, that you are doing well in every way.

    • Hi Carroll, yes, that is true. My new occupation does not lend itself to reflection, but nothing is wrong. I am doing very well, thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

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