Of Existence and Insignificance (Part 2)

One fine day more than a decade ago — back when chain Emails were a thing — I received a PowerPoint presentation from a friend.

Mindblowing!!!, said the subject line. Not the most effective sales pitch, in hindsight, but it worked fine on my adolescent self.

The presentation consisted of a series of pictures, each successive image magnified by an order of 10. I sat, mesmerized, as the slides transitioned — starting from a small square meter of farmland, whittled down bit by bit from gravel and soil to individual molecules and atoms, and — ultimately — gluons and quarks.

Before my 7th grade brain could do much with this information, the slides started transitioning again, zooming out and out until the camera hovered over the farmland once more, an insignificant parcel in a patchwork of verdant fields.

And then it zoomed out some more.

Past planets, and stars, and galaxies — until the screen was naught but a collection of bright dots on an eerie black background; a single line of red text appeared, finally, sanctimoniously proclaiming — ‘this is how small we are, and even smaller are our problems!’


The presentation had a lasting impact on me. I couldn’t stop thinking of how truly tiny, unthinkably ephemeral we are in the grand scheme of things — of all the planes of existence and how we could barely look through one.

There were giant balls of gas that had been burning for millions of years and infinitesimally small molecules of oxygen floating randomly through the air — all at the same time as I searched for a clean pair of socks before school.

All that bothers us — all the pains of the living, the grief and sorrow and fears and hopes — paling so profoundly before the marvels of a universe so much larger than we could conceivably imagine.

Where did that leave us, and all our innumerable grievances? Where did that leave me?


Much time has passed since the days of the chain Emails. Enough time, I suppose, to reconcile myself — somewhat- with my insignificance. And maybe find a way to look beyond it, too. So much exists in the same moment, regardless of whether we pay it any attention. The tiniest of phenomena and the biggest of catastrophes on their merry way, whether we aid them or not.

They are — whether within us, or without.

Some days, everything seems to go wrong. The alarm doesn’t go off on time and I stub my toe on the door-frame and argue with an irascible office clerk and miss a bus by mere seconds.

But — things are as they have always been. Maybe I’m the one who’s out of sync in this particular magnitude of existence.

Maybe today is the day I take a breath and tune out the traffic and marvel at the warm winter sunlight as I wait for the next bus. Maybe today is the day I take a moment to appreciate tiny capillaries flushing my skin with miraculous vitality as pain surges through my stubbed toe.

Maybe today is the day I pay attention to what lies inside me — or what I inhabit — and appreciate how nothing ceases to work in tandem. Maybe today is the day I remind myself of the all the things that went right in a year, so much more numerous than what went wrong in a day.

Or all the things that went right in this decade, or in this lifetime.

Or this very second.

Something, at some order of magnitude, is going absolute right — I just have to find a way to fall in sync again.