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Who are we? May 2, 2009

Posted by dmb677 in Uncategorized.

People are so arrogant…

Every one of us bustling around, completely immersed in our own world, and mostly deaf to the infinity that is unfolding all around them.

A person lives for maybe 100 years and then he dies. All his hopes and dreams, every drama, every relationship, everything that meant the world to him – all those ideas wrapped up in his head – gone. 

The earth is older 4.5 billion years. It was enough time for microbial life to develop and then that life to evolve complexity and eventually into the world that we now see. The universe is even at 13 billion years. 

The famous quote by Carl Sagan

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

When I really understand how vanishingly small I am, when I really let go of my imagined self importance, and when I finally quit pretending that the universe rotates around me. When I finally accept the fact that my ideas, my writing, my words are just tiny shattered fractions of the entirety of the universe, and that they play such a small role. A smaller role than I can ever even imagine – a vanishingly small role. 

That is spirituality – to accept the reality of things as they are, and learn to find beauty in it. To accept death, and be somberly happy about it. To look up in the night sky and realize how small and insignificant the self really is, and be perfectly content with that.



1. wgreen - May 7, 2009


This seems to me a very mystical view of things. What do you mean by “spirituality”? Why should one strive for such a thing? What value is there to realizing how vanishingly small you are? What logical reason is there to be happy about death? Why should insignificance bring contentment? It all seems very mystical, vague, emotional, and irrational.

In addition, what is arrogant about recognizing that none of this universe would have any “significance” or importance apart from the existance of consciousness. After all, what is the meaning of “importance” or “significance”? If there were no consciousness, how could anything have any meaning at all?

Thanks for the converstaion.


2. The insignificance of man? « A Little Lower Than the Angels - May 7, 2009

[…] seem as tiny drops lost in a sea of time and space so vast that it boggles the mind.  dmb, over at Spirit of Secularism,  quotes Carl Sagan’s statement of this […]

3. dmb677 - May 8, 2009

Yeah perhaps I was in a strange mood when I wrote that. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

You are right “spirituality” has a really fuzzy definition. It seems to mean something different to each person, but actually that is the reason I like it – it is more poetic than it is concrete and rational.

So while we should never say that human life is insignificant or unimportant like you are pointing out. I still think it is a sobering thought to realize how much more is out there in terms of space, time, knowledge, etc.

Perhaps people would be more willing to live together peacefully and feel united as a human race if we really understood we all occupy the same tiny pebble hurling through the infinity of space.

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