Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Significantly Insignificant

Every once in a while my mind wanders down this odd path, the one where I try to really comprehend how many people there are, the one where it boggles my mind to realize there are all sorts of people all over the world doing things RIGHT NOW, even as I'm sitting in my living room typing on my laptop. There are people I know personally who are doing stuff, like the neighbors next door (whom I can hear and see, so I know what they're up to), like my mom (who I know is currently in Staunton and probably in her store), my sister (who's probably teaching in Kansas City), my husband (who I think is at his office)... These are people I know and love, who are very important to me - and yet really most of the time I have no clue what they're doing, feeling, thinking, at any given moment... And there are, of course, millions, or, actually, billions of people out there right now living their own lives and doing stuff I'll never know about and never experience... the people living in South Central LA, the people living in the Ukraine, the people living in South Africa... I don't know them. I don't know what their lives are like. And most likely never will. And yet they all exist. Just like Robert Pattinson will never know anything about me (sad, but true) - and yet right now he's out there doing something. And so am I.

Sometimes it amazes me that anyone can ever get along with anyone else; after all, our worlds, our realities are shaped by our experiences, our locations, our abilities, our expectations. What my life as a middle-aged, middle class white woman in non-urban Virginia is like is vastly different than what life is like for a young gang member in New York. At least I presume it is. But it's also different from my friends' lives, even if they are also by and large middle-aged middle class white women living in non-urban Virginia.  And then when I think not only of all the people who are alive and living right now, but of all the people who have come before us (not to mention those still to come), the difference in their lives versus ours today - well, my brain starts to go fuzzy. It's just mind boggling to me, the reality of how many people there are.

Of course with differences, there are similarities, too, I guess. Most of us have feelings in common - most of us can relate to feeling lonely, angry, in love, tired, etc... Is that what binds us? Common feelings, if not common beliefs? Because certainly many of my close friends have beliefs that differ from mine on any number of topics, but I still feel drawn to them. Some of us have similar experiences - being married, having children, etc. That helps bind us to each other, as well. I can relate to experiences people wrote about 200 years ago, even though the societies we each lived in would be so different from each other. I can relate to feelings people talk about, even if the rest of their lives differ greatly from mine.

I'm never quite sure where my mind will end up when it wanders down this path, just as I'm not sure where this blog post is going... I was mostly thinking the other day that in the grand scheme of things, I truly *am* insignificant. I don't mean that in a bad way; I merely mean that my life is one of BILLIONS going on right now, and if you were to look down on all the people from space (or maybe Google Maps), well, I'd pretty much blend in with everyone else. Maybe that's a good reminder for me when my own stuff looms so large, when I start to obsess over Jefferson's tics or Ellie's size or whether or not my husband still likes me. I'm not saying those things aren't important, I'm saying they're not the most important things ever, and that life is much bigger than whatever I, or anyone, happens to be experiencing at that very moment. (Take note, celebrities. Oh wait, you don't know and will never know I exist. Never mind.)

Except that of course regardless of how many people we are sharing space with (on the planet or in the house), we each DO have our own unique life. There may be billions of us, but NONE of us has the same life as anyone else. And that is significant. I don't know what goes on in the minds of my husband or my kids, and they're the people to whom I am the closest. They don't know my innermost thoughts. But for whatever reason, we were given the power to think and feel and believe and experience. So I guess while I need to be reminded sometimes my stuff is not the center of the universe, it's O.K. to say it's significant to me.

There's no neat resolution to this rambling, because I don't know what point I am trying to make, if any. But this idea of how vast and huge the world is has been on my mind more and more lately, so I just wanted to scribble about it to see if I could figure out why. We each are significant and insignificant, at the same time. For me, that's worth thinking about.

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