Relax: Nothing Really Matters

Perspective for self-important apes clinging to a pebble amid infinite space.

The Pillars of Creation are clouds of gas over 7,000 light years from Earth. They are part of a larger formation called The Eagle Nebula. Just one of these pillars is four light years tall. Have a look at this image:

Do you see the tiny little finger projection at the top of the left most pillar? It’s about the size of our solar system. Our sun and all its planets would fit inside that seemingly tiny wisp. So what?

Nothing you do really has any significance. You are just one individual among a species of primate with billions of relatives living on a tiny rock in the middle of nowhere. So why do you worry all the time?

Why do you fret over what other insignificant primates think about your own insignificance? Who cares what they think? The rest of the Universe certainly doesn’t.

Why do you panic about deadlines and let that panic paralyze you? Trust me, your work is not worth the panic. Your work doesn’t matter. There’s no point in getting all worked up about work.

Why do you care so much about getting money? So that you can buy things that don’t matter? If you have enough food to eat, what’s more money going to do anyway?

Why do you hold on to the hurt from when others have wronged you? What they did has no significance at all. Let it go: set it adrift among the stars and all the empty blackness.

There is a certain usefulness to the nihilistic vertigo that comes from casting your gaze across a cosmic scale. We silly apes spend so much time fretting and worrying about our imagined importance that we miss out on The Thing.

The Thing is life is a remarkable and unlikely gift. It doesn’t matter if you are religious or anti-religious, or some more reasonable perspective in between–life is a gift. Some of the power of the Universe coalesced into a little bit of matter and energy that can know it’s here: you. You can see a sunset, climb a tree, kiss another living fragment of the Universe, and laugh. Even more powerful is your ability to extend grace, friendship, and kindness to other bits of the Universe. You can’t do a single thing of cosmic importance. Hell, the whole lot of us can barely throw small bits of metal at nearby worlds. But, you can perform acts of incredible subjective value when you make another life a little better than it was before you found it.

So tell someone to have an amazing day. Tell a stranger that their shoes look awesome. Embrace your smallness when you think about your problems and stress, but own your incredible power when dealing with other living things. You are small, but you are very big to other small things.

Enjoy the freedom that comes with being alive. Don’t let the grind of all our imaginary importance take away The Thing.

If you enjoyed this piece, I wrote another one about the stupid things we fight about.