12 October 2012

A Good Little Thing

When I was in high school, my mom bought me a t-shirt that said, “I’d like to be an optimist, but I doubt it would work out.” The irony is, every bit of pessimism in my psyche came from her. She is a bitter, sarcastic woman who fights herself to gain any shred of hope, and usually loses the battle. I don’t know what happened to make my mom that way (her mom? marital disillusionment?), but I do not want to end up like her.

People change. Usually people change by drifting further in whatever direction they’ve already been heading. Some people, however, seize the rudder of change and strive to tack in a different direction.

I would not be comfortable with being an optimist, but I also do not want to be a pessimist. Frankly, both views seem unbalanced. I like balance. I like the middle path.

The other day I realized my utter insignificance, and it comforted me more than anything has in recent years. That may sound weird to some, that my insignificance was comforting. Let me explain. I realized that the universe is incredibly vast. I’m one person among 7 billion currently alive on this planet, orbiting one of billions of stars in one of billions of galaxies in the universe. My life will occupy a few paltry years in a universe already 13.75 billion years old. I’m incredibly insignificant. And that means I cannot really do any damage to the universe. I cannot fuck up so badly that the universe will register any lasting damage. I can’t wreck this planet significantly, much less any other planets, stars or galaxies.

What a fucking relief! I’d been raised by fundamentalists, for whom each action and decision was fraught with eternal, immeasurable consequences. God was breathing down my neck, and Satan whispering in my ear, and even how I ate my dinner or wiped my ass could shatter the world. When you’re raised with such dire consequences hanging over you 24/7, discovering your insignificance is a tremendous relief.

And with that easing of the burden, I can now approach life with a lighter touch, and a much more sanguine outlook. What I do doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. I don’t really matter in the scheme of things. So if I undertake changes or actions, I do so out of what I determine to be beneficial or personally significant. Being relaxed could even lead me to be a better person. Who knows?

So, reveling in my insignificance, I’m adopting a phlegmatic attitude toward life. However good or bad it gets, it is all so very, very limited in scope as not to matter a whole hell of a lot. And that, to me, is a good thing. A good little thing.

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