Sunday, June 9, 2019


To the degree that I register as a feature of the universe, I'm only a temporary one. In some currently unknown amount of time, whether that's twenty years, twenty thousand years or twenty million years, it will be impossible to find any trace that I was ever here. Much of existence is ephemeral that way; the changes we make to the universe around us, or even our immediate environs, do not last. As far as I'm concerned, this is okay, the universe does not need me to make enduring changes to it in order for it to keep "functioning." Star systems, galaxies, clusters and the like will continue to do their thing.

For some, this is indicative of despair. I understand the perspective, but I do not share it. I don't really buy into the idea that it makes sense to despair in the face of inevitability. It's misery that doesn't add anything. And responses to that potential misery are often counter-productive, in that the things that people do in order to feel significant can simply trade misery for misery.

I suspect that it's a matter of scale. Not in the sense that the Universe is vast and that individuals are small, but in the sense that as human populations grow and become more connected, any given individual can come to feel redundant. In a community of a couple hundred people, one that is small enough that it's reasonable for all of the members to know one another, a person can see their impacts on their community. The evidence of their contributions will be all around them. But in larger populations; cities with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants or nations with tends of millions, a person's influence is often limited to just their own households. And in work environments that seem geared to treat individuals as disposable cogs in a vast machine, a feeling of genuine significance can be difficult to come by.

The challenge of offering people a positive means of affirming their own significance is an imposing one; especially when we live in an environment that often treats good news as unworthy of attention. But it's one worth tackling. Not because I think that it will ever be completely solved, but because even the steps towards a solution will prove valuable.

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