One of the great things I like about living outside of the city is my relatively unadulterated view of the night sky. Even such a mundane task as putting out the garbage becomes an enjoyable experience when I stop at the end of the driveway, look up, and soak it all in. The smell of the trees, grass and water, the feel of the cool night air, the sound of the crickets and frogs, and of course: the seemingly countless stars filling my vision. But it always makes me think, "Damn I'm small."
I've blogged before about the concept of purpose. Specifically, that a man needs to feel like he has made an impact on his environment, that he can make a difference - that his life has purpose. Soberly, I know I will never come anywhere close to comparing to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, or the like. But even the greatest of people doing the greatest of deeds for the greatest number of beings quickly becomes insignificant in the vastness of just our known universe - or, on a much smaller scale, just the history of mankind within a short sliding window of time. Heck, it's only been less than 2,000 years since Jesus walked the Earth, and millions of people have died disagreeing about what he did or didn't say or do, or even if he was or is what he or others said he was. Even what he looked like is conjecture. (BTW, I seriously doubt he was white.)
Now think about yourself. Do you have delusions of grandeur that you actually matter? Probably. At times we all do. But if you died, what impact would that really make? Your loved ones would be sad, very much so for a period of time, and your friends and co-workers would miss you for a little while. But everyone would get by and eventually move on with their lives. I remember how sad I was when my grandfather died, but now weeks go by that I don't even think about him. I'm not proud of that, but it's the truth. Over the past year, personal events have greatly exacerbated my fight with depression. So much so that there are entire days where I can't seem to shake the thought that there's no point in me going on living, other than to provide a paycheck for those fiscally dependent on me. The only thing that short-circuits that thought is the knowledge that even though they don't live with me anymore, my children do love me, and I love them too much to completely remove myself from their lives. If it wasn't for them, I'm fairly certain I would've emptied that bottle of sleeping pills by now. Still, their importance to me or my importance to them is only a relative concept we have amongst ourselves.
A few weeks ago I was sitting outside a Rochester, NY bar (LUX), people watching. I was literally disgusted, not just with them but with myself. All these people dressed up or down, drinking their cheap beers or overpriced cocktails, chatting away about nothing. Absolutely NOTHING. What kind of life is that? Seriously? And here I am, doing it too. And I'll probably do it again. Why? Because I've got nothing better to do? Grrr. Look at that tree over there. Wow, that's a big tree. Probably a couple hundred years old. A blinking light passes by in the distance. A plane. From that distance, even the tallest redwoods aren't even a spec of peachfuzz to the naked eye. And from the moon, the largest mountains are glassy-smooth on the curvature of the seemingly perfect sphere we call Earth. To our Sun, a mere 93 million miles away, the Earth is barely a circling gnat. And there are billions of solar systems in our galaxy. The Milky Way is so huge, that at the speed of light it would take 100,000 years to cross it. And their are billions of galaxies in our perceived universe. AND, if you subscribe to the "Big Bang" theory as the origin to our universe, then it is conceivably possible that there have existed multiple "big bangs" that have originated other universes. And we're still only talking about our temporal plane of existence, our dimension of understanding. If our sun collapsed and created a black hole, and sucked us all up, the truth is that the cosmos would not even notice. Countless theoretical civilizations on unreachable worlds would never know we ever existed. Hell, if you died today I bet your neighbor one block away wouldn't know, or probably care. Does anybody under the age of 60 even read the obituaries?
But we matter to God, right? Well, first prove to me that God exists. Wait, which religion's "god" or "gods" are we talking about it? The one predominant to our culture? The one that has the most followers? The one that's been around the longest? I guess it comes down to faith, "faith" to me being a best guess or gut feel that this is the correct thing to believe. The thing that makes me comfortable not understanding everything, that makes me sleep better at night, that makes me think that I actually matter.
Sorry to break this to you, but you really don't matter. And neither do I.
It seemed best to wait a little while so that someone else could have a chance to respond first to your blog, but they’ve had their chance now. Thank you, David, for another creative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking reflection. I really admire your desire to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. I especially appreciate your candid comments about yourself, your family, our grandpa, and a society that evidently revolves around vanity and meaninglessness.ReplyDelete
I refrained from tossing in a bunch of quotes, passages, book titles, and my own pronouncements for now until you have a question. Instead, I (mostly) limited myself to an interrogative format so that we and other readers might continue to contemplate these important issues, either in writing or just in our minds. The conversation is important, even if it’s only within ourselves and seems to only lead to more questions. But here we go:
A. [Last sentence of first paragraph]
Hey Napoleon, why does size matter, anyway?
B. [2nd paragraph, “Heck…said he was.”]
Why was any of that so important to them? Would they have not died had they not disagreed—and what would be gained or lost by simply abandoning their convictions?
C. [3rd paragraph, “But if you…but it’s the truth.”]
What other effects or reverberations can a person have beyond others merely “thinking” about them? In what ways has our grandfather influenced us beyond our memories and fond feelings? What subconscious/unconscious elements of him echo within us? Yes, I too go for stretches without thinking about him or certain other people, but does that mean there are no effects? (e.g. our manner of speaking and relating with others, subtle flavors of mood or connections of thought awakened in particular settings and situations, as well as various mindsets, modes of thinking, motives, approaches, curiosities, pastimes, and ideals that are adopted, shifted/altered, or at least emphasized.)
D. [3rd paragraph, “Over the past year…pills by now.”]
Who else besides them? (Not to be selfish, but try your brother, for one!) If you did anything to intentionally hurt yourself, I’d seriously have to kick your ass. (Irony intended.)
E. [4th paragraph, “Wow…never know we existed.”]
Again, why does size matter, or the amount of time, or the degree of recognition?
F. [5th paragraph, “But…exists.”]
2) Can everything that is true be proven? (e.g.: Prove to me that you love your kids.)
3) Even if we could prove God’s existence and it was settled once and for all to everyone, what would happen to the individual’s free will?
G. [5th paragraph, “Wait…the longest.”]
Again, what is up with this size thing? And how might the quantification of populations potentially create needless division through the use of ideological barriers? Might there be another, more open and elastic way to view people’s awareness and responsiveness of God and the spiritual domain?
H. [5th paragraph, “I guess…actually matter.”]
How might some measurable knowledge actually *support* the element of faith rather than replace it? In other words, how can faith be defined and expanded beyond the mere territory of knowledge gaps?
I. [Last 2 sentences.]
Can one finite and incredibly tiny speck *infinitely* matter to another finite, incredibly tiny speck? Is the value placed on the relative size/duration of that speck OR is it placed on the quality of the speck’s dynamics? And how does one finite speck even go about judging its own relative size, duration, and dynamic influence, especially if the standard deviation is based around infinity?