By James Wadman
Many people doubt our significance in this vast universe, and for good reason. I discuss this subject on and off from different attitudes because it is important to weigh both our significance and insignificance when making important decisions in life. My overall opinion on the matter is no secret, and has remained relatively constant for the last few years: I think of the entire spectrum of conscious, human life on earth with the analogy of a raindrop on its descent to the ground. If some tiny world in this raindrop suddenly gained consciousness, does it have any effect on the storm? No, it will simply carry on its transient journey until it becomes a splash in a puddle.
Insignificant, yes. Grim even, perhaps. However, something occurred to me the other day that fits into this narrative and provides a bit of hope to the tiny world on its descent to the ground. Consider a timeless piece of music — Beethoven’s 5th comes immediately to mind, not a symphony I particularly love but one that is incredibly meaningful to our world. Society seldom questions its cosmic significance because its value to mankind is indisputable. Therefore, Beethoven’s 5th has unquestionable value, and this will remain true for the entire existence of humanity.
So I ask those of you who interpreted the raindrop analogy as grim, does the fate of the raindrop matter if our tiny world carries its own significance throughout the descent? We derive meaning not from where we are going, but through the value in our lives at every moment getting there. Just as no one doubts the significance of Beethoven’s 5th to humankind, no one doubts their own significance in life when they are actually out there living.
I unearthed a quote from my novel, Diamondis, recently that captures my opinion on this perfectly:
“The realization of our meaningless can be told in a word, a sentence at the most. Our story rarely revolves around the realization itself. However, the descent to this realization is lush with poetry. The beauty is the descent.”
This quote comes from a discussion between the main characters, Tomas and Julia, trying to debunk the perceived meaninglessness of life by nihilistic philosophers. So there — my views on our insignificance are in fact very optimistic. I like to live lightly and make decisions based on the immediate happiness of myself and my loved ones. And, just a bit of off-topic advice to go along with this, it is always important to find the balance between the aforementioned “immediate happiness” and what will provide you with lasting happiness. When making big decisions in life, ask yourself, will this bring me happiness now? Then, will this bring me happiness for days to come? People often neglect one of the two questions — if you can’t answer yes to both, you might want to dig harder for the opportunity.