I was 13 when, lying on the grass looking up at the summer night sky, I realised just how big the universe was and how timeless. I struggled with concepts of infinity and eternity for a while until my brain hurt and I parked the incomprehensible. Maybe later! The most valuable outcome of that experience was, however, a deep appreciation of my serious insignificance in time and space. This has led to several useful perspectives that have shaped my life and outlook since, and for which I am abundantly grateful.
It is awe-inspiring to realise that your very existence is nothing short of a miracle. You are here – for however long or short a time – and you have life … A life. How precious is that? Every moment, every sense, every experience becomes magical. What a waste not to be in each and every one … hearing music, walking along the street, a hug from a friend, a laugh with your child, a slice of toast, sunshine and rain, a warm bed, even moments of sadness! What riches are these?
It might seem incongruous but this perspective that makes a treasure trove of the everyday also makes light of the small stuff. Getting your knickers in a twist when things don’t go your way or lathering into a state of anxiety about failing a test or not being appreciated by your boss uses up unnecessary negative energy. In the bigger picture so much of it becomes small stuff, even if sometimes this takes some nudging!
We are sold such a myth about what is important – and so little of this really matters. We are in danger of being hoodwinked by the ads out of life itself. How can anyone believe that striving for diamonds, designer clothes, flash cars or five minutes of fame is the way to spend this short and precious pulse of consciousness?
Seriously competing with others, either individually or in groups in order to be best, have most, be more successful, or prove our superiority suddenly becomes laughable. The differences between us are so very much less than our shared humanity. Why use up precious time and energy trying to widen these infinitesimal gaps? Strengthening the connections between us to collaborate for the common good is so much more worthwhile, satisfying and sensible. Competition is now endangering this amazing planet – how senseless is that in the bigger picture?
There is a possibility that insignificance could lead to disengagement – but the reality is the opposite. You might as well make this brief existence authentically meaningful. I am lucky enough to have not needed to be focused solely on survival. So many souls do not have the option of a life they can love so finding ways, however small, to enable others to do so makes sense. Social justice in all its shapes and sizes fits with this perspective. An inspiring example is Scott Neeson, who gave up wealth, luxury and status in the film industry to focus on improving the lives of Cambodian children living on rubbish dumps – enabling their spark of existence to shine a little more. Not only did he make a difference to those kids, it also gave him great satisfaction and meaning. He will leave this world an authentically happy man.
This might seem strange, but it is both reassuring and comforting to know that not only am I miraculously here but also that I am nothing more than a flash in the pan and a grain of sand on a beach. It is wonderful that I am part of it all but also good to truly understand my microscopic place in this immense universe; I am only one human in the whole history of humanity – and that in itself is not that long! Get over yourselves people! Others will follow, the world will turn. I will be utterly forgotten and that doesn’t matter two hoots. I have no idea what might or might not happen after my spark of earthly existence disappears and I don’t really care. I am here now – really here! What a treat, what an opportunity, what a blessing.