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Published:September 13th, 2007 08:40 EST
All For Nothing

All For Nothing

By Sean Stubblefield

Why is a thing only valued or valuable in our society if money is, or can be, traded for or assigned to it? Such an attitude assumes that things that are voluntary or free have no “real” worth. Not even freedom is free, “they“ say-- although it should be. If we are given something, a nefariously presumed guilt or habitualized sense of propriety automatically “obliges” us to give something back. Despite whether we want to, whether we can afford to, and whether such reciprocity is deserved, warranted, wanted or appropriate. We have been culturally conditioned to feel indebted-- in debt to them who gave to us. You were given something for your birthday, therefore you should give them something on their birthday. Not because you like them, or because you actually want to give them a gift.

But because you are “supposed to”, you‘re expected to. That’s not even a valid reason, and makes you insincere--- a fraud and a liar… a buyer of another‘s affections or good graces.


Interestingly, we are generally good at taking things, but not at accepting.

We aren’t comfortable or accustomed to simply receiving a gift. Most people are not graceful receivers. Why?

We tend to be skeptical and suspicious of things given freely. Why?

Our capitalist mentality tells us nothing is ever free… that everything has a price, and receiving demands compensation.

No strings attached? “What’s the catch?”, we presume to ask. It must not be worth anything if they are willing to just give it away… for nothing in return. Which is not only insulting to the giver, but to you whom something is given. Do you think so little of them and of yourself-- of the gift and its giving-- that nothing of value could or would possibly be given freely, voluntarily? Debt free and guilt free?

And when the giver states that they don’t want or expect anything from you in exchange, you don’t really believe them. Do you? Further insulting them by distrusting their sincerity or their motives.

How sad. That wasn’t a question.


There is a fallacy in common conception, particularly in the business world of employment, that if you are talented about something, then you'd already be getting paid for it, "professionally".
Obviously. Yeah, no... not so much.
Something done professionally is typically considered of higher quality and held in higher esteem than amateur work.

But in truth, "amateur" does not mean without skill or craft; it means only “not professional“--- not done for money and/or not licensed. Professional skill is not necessarily any more or any less competent than amateur skill. The terms “unprofessional” and “amateur” are falsely biased with negative connotations and implications. Both suggest someone who doesn’t know what they are doing, or are unskilled.

Who should we trust more: someone whose talent is exercised primarily for money? Or for love? Who is more likely to care more about what they do? We often dismiss our unpaid passions as “just a hobby”; something we do on the side, in our spare time. However, in doing so, we belittle our “hobby” and ourselves by implying we don‘t take seriously what we take seriously. A collective impression exists that if we aren’t paid to do it, then it is somehow less significant, less meaningful.


If a TV were presented to cavemen, would it have any value to them as a TV? No.

They wouldn’t have any use for it, wouldn’t even know what to do with it.

Does that mean TVs have no value? If art goes unappreciated by society, does that art lack inherent value? Or is it the society that is lacking in its failure to appreciate the art?

In 1966, the world didn’t think much of Star Trek. But in the 80s and 90s, it was all the rage. Does this mean that Trek was essentially worthless in the 60s? If something doesn’t sell, is it innately null and void? Useless?


I’m an excellent writer and a decent editor… and yet-- not for lack of trying-- I don’t get paid for doing either. Does that mean I’m not a good writer? Does it mean that no one likes my writing? Am I to infer that my writing has no merit or utility? Because I offer my writing for free, does my writing or my talents have no value? Am I wasting my time writing since I’m not being paid? That would be a NO.

I don’t write because I hope to be paid for it (although I do hope), I write publicly-- and freely-- because I am compelled to; I am passionate about writing and I‘d eventually go crazy if I didn‘t write. It is what I do. Sales, advertising and marketing, however, are not among my skills or interests.
I give my writing at no cost, not merely because I can’t sell it (which isn‘t to say it is unsellable). I offer my writing for free mainly because my writing is more important to me than money, and because sharing what I know and not get paid is better than keeping it to myself and not get paid. Hording or hiding it benefits no one.

Photography is also one of my passions, although I've had no formal or class training. I'm a better photographer than my camera unfortunately allows; yet that limitation and capacity of equipment results in giving a particular style to my vision that wouldn't be possible with better resources. Sometimes, the medium itself and conditions of creation become aspects of the art. I can't afford a "professional" setup or "experience" to take the quality of pictures I'd prefer, but I do the best I can with what I've got... and still manage to create awesomeness.

My greatest passion of all is traveling, exploring. And I’m really good at it. Yet, alas, how do I get paid for that? That’s not a viable career choice, no matter how much I love it. I can’t be a professional traveler/ explorer.

Not only am I an amateur, I am unpaid. And that doesn’t mean I am without some skill.