The Advantages Of Having A Small Mind.
Sometimes the big picture really is too big.
It’s possible to think of your life in such a way that it appears insignificant. You can think of yourself as nothing more that one of nearly eight billion people on Earth. Then you could go even further, and think of the Earth as the fourth smallest planet in the solar system. Smaller even than some other planets’ moons.
You could remind yourself that the solar system is more than 4 septillion times smaller than our Milky Way galaxy, which in turn is only 1 of over 2 trillion other galaxies. If you scaled everything down so that the Earth was the size of an atom, the observable universe would still be almost 3.5 million kilometres wide.
Things don’t get much better if you think in terms of time. The universe is almost 14 billion years old and it hasn’t even stopped growing yet. Most of us do so by the time we hit 20. And while I’m sure I could come up with some fun astronomical scale comparison for a human’s age, it’s not really necessary. The universe is 14 billion years old, and you’ll be lucky if you make it to 100. It’s hard to put it any more plainly than that.
Our lives pass in the blink of an eye. Our entire planet is smaller than a speck of dust. At most, we’ll meet a few thousand of the billions of people we share this tiny planet with. Viewed from this perspective, it’s pretty difficult to argue that anything we do matters.
But thankfully, this isn’t the right perspective from which to view ourselves. In fact, this isn’t a perspective from which we can view ourselves . Thanks to our puny minds and our myopic perspectives, we can’t see the universe, or even the world, on this scale. If anything does see us this way, it’s God, and Gods we are not. We are small, insignificant creatures with tiny lives and tinier brains and because of that, we can appreciate the beauty of tiny things, Things which are invisible to the Gods.
For us, time moves slowly enough that we can appreciate the beauty of a sunset. Or to be more precise, we can even imagine that a sun sets at all, rather than simply following its course through the cosmos. Our minds are so finite that we can be lost in wonder at the beauty of a painting or moved to tears by a few moments of music. Our perspectives are so trivial, that we can be overcome by the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one, instead of seeing them, as they are, as merely one of billions.
Gods can do none of these things. After all, what are any of these things worth from the vantage point of the infinite universe and the full vastness of time? When was the last time you thought about a grain of sand on Mars? Or mourned the death of one of your cells? How could we have watched a hummingbird flap its wings before we invented cameras that could capture such barely perceptible movements? Or noticed how beautiful a snowflake is before we created lenses powerful enough to see those minute details? Perhaps that’s what we’re here for. Perhaps our smallness is a kind of lens.
Maybe some things matter precisely because they’re insignificant. Like the beating of a hummingbird’s wings, or the patters in a snowflake, or the brevity of our lives. Instead of trying to see ourselves through the eyes of a God and finding ourselves lacking, we should look at ourselves through our own eyes, and see how much our limitations give us.
This small window of time we have helps us see the value in taking care of those we love, or making them smile, or trying to become wise. It’s precisely because we see so little that the things we do see can mean so much. It’s precisely because the universe is so big, that I’m grateful that my mind is so small.