On the heels of last week’s heartbreaking events nationwide — in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas —I’ve been reading philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s book, Plato at the Googleplex: Why Plato Won’t Go Away.
The question that preoccupied the ancient Greeks, Goldstein observes, is one that preoccupies us today, too — and maybe most especially today: What makes a human life matter? That is the question.
“Mattering is a state devoutly to be wished for,” Goldstein writes. “We no sooner know that we are, than we want that which we are to matter … The will to matter is at least as important as the will to believe, if we’re to understand the continuing force of the normative systems that emerged during [that time].”
And I suspect the will to matter is actually more important than the will to believe, and actually precedes questions of belief as an existential condition for believing in the love of God. We need to know our life matters in order to believe in the love of God. In other words, in the absence of the assurance that we matter, it is hard to believe in or sustain a belief in the love of God.
So while “mattering” is a belonging concern, more fundamentally, it’s a justice concern that gives voice to our deepest existential wondering about what makes a human life (and, closer to home, our own life) matter. As such, it should precede political or religious beliefs and allegiances also.