I know that my birth is fortuitous, a laughable accident, and yet, as soon as I forget myself, I behave as if it were a capital event, indispensable to the progress and equilibrium of the world.
Since every creature, and particularly human beings, see themselves as the center of the universe, there is a naturally assumed sense of self-importance. Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not share this sentiment. Most sentient creatures see others almost as inanimate objects. Watch a lion chewing on the organs of a gazelle while it is still alive. There are no visible signs of any empathy whatsoever, and whether the gazelle is dead or alive while being devoured seems to be irrelevant to the consuming lion. And so it is with human beings to some extent. While each suffers their trials and tribulations, deals with their existential angst, and may hurt deeply, to another person any particular individual just assumes the importance of an object to a large extent. Of course, if we have some form of relationship with another person, then their inner state becomes better known to us. Generally speaking, we treat all strangers as objects and reserve the sense of sentience for ourselves and those who are close to us.
We can work outwards when determining how important we are. One’s own body, thoughts, and emotions are very, very important. They fill our world. To those who are close to us, we are less important than they are to themselves, but even so, we do assume some importance. Then we move further out to casual friends and acquaintances. In reality, we may not be the least bit important to these people. Moving further out to individuals who live in the same town or city we are virtually invisible. So we don’t have to go very far to lose all significance whatsoever. The same applies to so-called ‘famous people.’ While the population of the world may know a very famous person, such a person will not be missed if they suddenly disappear. And certainly, and beings living in the Andromeda galaxy will be blissfully unaware of the extinction of all life on planet Earth.
But this is just a consideration of the size of the universe and the number of things in it. How about time? We all have a window of around 70 or 80 years to live our lives, and in that window, we can be relevant to a small group of people. Now the universe is about 13 billion years old – that’s 13 with nine zeroes after it. Within a hundred years of your death, you will be almost entirely forgotten – it will be as if you had not lived. Even the Sun and our galaxy the Milky Way are not necessary. In two billion years the Sun will explode, and the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda galaxy. It will be fireworks on a massive scale, and only God gets a front row seat to see it. I call that selfishness on an infinite scale. So your selfishness can never add up to much. In fact, it’s zero to be precise, even if you are a narcissistic psychopath.
This universe is without doubt very very large – some 100 billion stars in each galaxy, and four trillion galaxies. And to make matters worse, it seems as though there is an infinite number of universes – called the multiverse. So for all intents and purposes, existence is infinite in time and space. Divide any finite number by infinity, and you get zero. So you and I are zero. Even our whole galaxy is zero.
We would like our lives to have meaning and purpose. But how can zero have meaning or purpose? This thought will either depress you or free you. That you and I are not necessary components in the infinity of existence means our actions are wholly meaningless, and so within the limits of the law we can think and do what the hell we want. It doesn’t matter. We don’t matter. Again this thought either depresses or liberates.
Let us imagine for a moment that we are very, very important. This state implies that we have some crucial role to fulfill, and this, in turn, implies responsibility. I want no responsibility for something I do not understand. Give me zero any day. Zero allows me to be irresponsible – again within the limits of the law and any considerations for others we may wish to entertain.
The more important you are, the less free you are. Choose zero and breathe in that fresh breeze of being insignificant. Your ego may object, but just tell it there is a choice – importance with all the associated responsibilities, or zero with inner freedom. Even our clutching little egos must surely understand it is better to be nothing than something.
Finally a quote from Schopenhauer:
But he will fear least to become nothing in death who has recognized that he is already nothing now.