The Human mind is simply not capable of understanding the scale of our insignificance. It is magical thinking and delusion to believe that we can.
Our minds think linearly, and the only way to come close to conceptualizing the scale of our universe is to use multiple exponential scales. We are not designed to process information like this.
To make matters worse it is likely that much of what we know is simply wrong and distorted by the limited computational power of our brains, the tiny bandwidth of our senses and primitive nature of our available tools.
We can only sense a fraction of the available wavelengths of light and energy to ‘see’. We can only detect and process a tiny sliver of pulsating waves we call ‘sound’.
We then filter this information through our brain which is distorted by our beliefs, personality and cognitive biases. We then write or speak about these things which are filtered through yet another brain with the same limitations of our own.
Ponder this every time you think you know the ‘truth’ about something. Think of what truth was to a person living 2000 years ago. Think of what truth will be to a person living 2000 years from now.
Every step of the way we think we are enlightened. We look back and laugh at the ignorance of a few generations ago, failing to realize that we will be that generation one day.
We know nothing.
Religion and philosophy have grappled with these horrible and wonderful realities since we developed brains complex enough to be aware of them. New philosophies and religions will be born and die as a natural cycle as we struggle to wrap our minds around these questions.
Until then, realize nothing you do in this life is permanent, lasting or meaningful in the grand scheme of the universe.
If we are so insignificant, if our existence is so trivial, how could anything we do or are – our successes and failures, our anxiety and sadness and joy, all our busy ambition and endeavour, all that makes up the material of our lives – how could any of that possibly matter.
For billions of years, life has flourished on Earth, species and populations, ecosystems and niches, communities and dependencies have developed, ruled and fallen, leaving almost no trace. These creatures knew plenty and want, excitement and fear, hope and despair – and then they were gone.
Only very recently did humans develop. If the 4 billion year history of life on Earth was reduced to a single year, then human beings developed in about the last 10 minutes of the year.
Humanity might be new, but there have already been a lot of us. More than 100 billion Humans have been born in the past 100,000 years. The events of any person, population or culture in the majority of that time have been completely lost to history.
Modern humans with full cognitive, emotional and social abilities lived and died, leaving almost no record of their existence.
We are now able to describe a history beginning a few thousand years ago of some people around the World – primarily those who left a record of written history, stable architecture or stone artifacts.
Again, except for the few pieces that remain in museums today, most of the work of these people was briefly appreciated and then lost to the turning of time.
Your choices, your actions, how you choose to behave toward your fellow travelers – all of this becomes tremendously important when you embrace insignificance … because this life is all you have.