During dark and dismal moments, when our brains rebel and point out the truth that the world is indeed full of thoughtless, anti-intellectual, callous, vicious, smug arseholes, people describe themselves as feeling small and insignificant – as if that’s a bad thing.
The fact of that matter is that we ARE small and insignificant.
Let’s be wildly optimistic and say that humans will make it another thousand years before we either die off naturally or kill ourselves off with reckless abandon. The current age of the universe is 13.8 billion years, which means that modern humans will have existed for 0.00014% of the age of the universe, which will then happily continue on without us. (If you only count the time humanity has been civilised, i.e. paying taxes and working too hard, then that takes us down to 0.000005%) We are less than the blink of an eye. This is NOT a bad thing. This is a liberating thing. This means that we are free.
There are however a huge number of reasons that we should not rampage through the streets naked and painted purple (no matter how much we would like to) not least of which would be frostbite and/or the risk of arrest, and it is fairly enjoyable living in a society where murder and free range robbery are frowned upon, but when you realise how small and insignificant the whole of humanity is it can help to put things into perspective on a more personal level.
If being a better person is something you want then admitting how briefly we are here is a tool to trick your mind into helping instead of hindering you. It’s impossible to grow an enormous ego when you know how fleeting our existence is. There are currently 7.7 billion of us, in the history of Homo sapiens there have been around 100 billion, all of them experienced worry at some point, all of them will end up in the same state. If you don’t worry about what was going on before you were born, why worry about what will happen after you die?
The notion of Heaven and the thought of never-ending happiness horrifies me. Not only is it repulsive that your soul or whatever could be happy while there are people on Earth suffering every day, but how do you progress as a person if you never have to do any work in order to relax or find contentment? If we really did have everything handed to us on silver platters we would be overgrown spoilt babies, throwing tantrums whenever something didn’t arrive with us quickly enough (hmmmm, that sounds familiar…can we say ‘celebrity culture’ everyone?)
Struggle and hardships are personal, YOU get to decide what those things are in your life and they will not be the same as everyone else’s, but they are also the only way to grow as human beings, IF you are prepared to put in the work and allow for the possibility that the Universe does not revolve around you.
According to boffins (such a lovely word) if we shrank our sun down to the size of a pea, and sat it in the middle of your dining room table, the nearest star to ours…also pea-sized…would be six miles away. Imagine that, you can see something PEA-SIZED from SIX MILES away! The fact that we can see Proxima Centauri, which is a smaller red dwarf star, even though the light takes over FOUR YEARS to get here, means that it is significantly bigger than anything we puny humans can wrap our brains around. It also means that light emanating from Proxima Centauri as you are making that life defining decision won’t get here until waaaaay past the point you have forgotten what was so important about whether you have too many unread books or whether wearing leopard print trousers will get you laughed at.
There are events you can’t control and decisions that must be made that will need you to be focused and level-headed, but they are far fewer than our brains imagine. We fool ourselves into believing that every unexpected circumstance requires faster heartbeats and sweater palms, we convince ourselves that calamity awaits us if every decision we make isn’t perfect. In actual fact most of us will be fine. Our lives will have periods of comfort and times of frugality, we will know worry and we should know comfort. But if you are able to step back metaphorically, and see yours and the whole of humanity’s existence for the Universal blip in time that it is, then it becomes much easier to acknowledge that the colour of your new curtains, or the time it will take to find a new job, or the number of guests at your party, are not life or death concerns but they are the spice that makes a life worth living…and they hold the possibility of making you a more interesting, more considerate and more balanced person.
A very interesting video (if you can cope with stupid You Tube ads first…tut): Star size comparisions
Picture source: https://wordlesstech.com/how-big-is-our-sun/