Monday, August 29, 2011


The topic of insignificance came up in a conversation after our evening meditation.

"Sometimes, like when I'm at the ocean," she said,  "I can feel so infinitesimally small.  The ocean is so overwhelmingly large, and the tides and the waves and the currents couldn't care less if one tiny person got swept out to sea or not.  It's frightening to realize how vulnerable, how small, how insignificant we are compared to something as vast as the ocean."

I think we all know that feeling.  I get it sometimes on a clear night up in the mountains when I can see  the infinite number of stars.  Some people tell me they experience it in the city, when they see uncountable numbers of people teeming like ants.  

Thinking about these comments, though, isn't that feeling of insignificance just another manifestation of the ego?  Our ego tells us that we're important, that we matter, that we ourselves are the reason for all of existence.  But then we see something so much larger and vaster, something that obviously could not even be bothered to acknowledge our trifling presence, and our perspective changes in an unpleasant way.

Ultimately, insignificance is only felt in relation to ourselves, or to look at it the other way, we only care about significance when it's our self that's significant.  Of course, this leads to a philosophical conundrum - if we are truly insignificant, and that insignificance exists only in relationship to our insignificant self, then that insignificance is of no significance and can therefore not exist.  I may need to think that one through a little more.

We experience things like "good" and "bad" in relation to ourselves - while I might consider it "good," say, that I win the lottery, that's also "bad" for the one million others who bought a ticket.  It's only "good" because I perceive it as "good" for me.  I would consider it "bad" if an asteroid hit my house, but everyone else would consider it "good" that it missed theirs.  "Good" and "bad" are relative, and relative to our own ego selves.  

So it is with some other dualities, like "meaningful" and "meaningless," or even "near" and "far."  So it is, I think, with "significant" and "insignificant."  While we worry and feel uncomfortable about our tiny selves compared to the great vast ocean, we don't feel any agita for the ocean compared to the galaxy, or for the galaxy compared to the universe, or, to scale it back down a little, for this post to the entire blogosphere.

I am not significant, you are not insignificant.  There are just random concepts of the mind, and the true nature of reality transcends such dualistic concepts.

No comments: