“No human thing is of serious importance” Plato
I recently googled “first human being?”. The first ones, the homo erectus, appeared 1-2 Million years ago.
For my liking, this was a little unspecific. It’s like my spouse asking “How much money do you have in your account?” and I say “100-10.000Euro”. But the answer shows: it doesn’t matter.
In perspective, Albert Einstein, Plato, and even Jesus don’t play a significant role. The idea of Jesus has been around for 2000 years (I stick to being unspecific). 2000 years are nothing in comparison to 1 million. In fact, it’s only 0,2%. On this planet, you, as an individual, mean nothing. Even as a society we don’t mean anything. We drop in for a while, we disappear.
We might leave a disaster. We might leave the garden of Eden. For the planet, for the universe though, no matter which of the two we leave behind, it’s causing a little bump. In the history of the universe, humans are so insignificant you can’t even imagine.
At first, this might sound depressing. But I am not saying this to depress you. Quite the contrary.
Here are a few perspectives and ideas to consider:
- Significance is a concept. It’s a word, an idea, a construct. It’s nothing real. It’s nothing that truly exists. Ask a squirrel if it is significant. Even if it was able to talk, it wouldn’t say “Hi, I am a very significant squirrel, because I eat all these acorns. I am the most important acorn eater on this planet.” Although as far as I know, the squirrel is the most important acorn eater. But nonetheless, if – due to a squirrel mass extinction caused by tomatoes (or I don’t know how squirrels might get extinct) – they would suddenly disappear from the planet we wouldn’t notice it all that much. I mean, we usually don’t notice any extinction in our everyday life. Anyways, I got a little distracted by the squirrel thing. So, the fact is significance itself is a human invention. Everything in the universe is insignificant except for any significance we give it.
- When humans thought the sun spins around the earth, the common idea was that humans are the most significant species that ever existed and will ever exist. Today, we are bombarded with the message that not humanity is exceptionally awesome, but that you are, and I am, and everyone else. Not as humanity, but as a single human being. We are told that we are awesome, that we can be anything, that the world will change its entire course. Because we are on this planet and we are all that humanity has been waiting for.
Devil’s advocates might call this narcism. The self-help industry calls it self-love. Whatever you want to call it, there is a significant flaw in this kind of thinking. If everyone was to be exceptionally significant, there wouldn’t be one anymore who is not exceptionally significant, which in turn makes no one exceptionally significant.
Let me give you an example. Imagine that no human is able to draw an elephant. All of a sudden, one person can do it. That person becomes the super hero of humanity, because of this exceptional extraordinary skill. Why is drawing an elephant nothing exceptionally significant in our culture? Because most of us, some better, some worse, know how to draw an elephant. Just as not every single person can be significant, we as humanity can’t either.
- Significance is a burden. If everything we as humans, or as individuals, do matters than we would be screwed. How often do we fuck something up? How about our destructive behavior towards the planet? If all this was significant we would cause a lot of trouble.
Isn’t the beauty of life to understand that we are not so significant, that we can play and try and fail without the world stop spinning. That we are here on this planet to do our best, of course, but that in the end, what we do doesn’t matter. That if anything matters, it’s not about what we do.
Significance is a cage.
Insignificance is freedom. To have fun living, choose to be insignificant.