MOST of us want to become somebody.
Early in grade school and on into our adult years, we get the message. Be somebody. Soon it becomes our experience of reality. You are the sun and the universe revolves around you.
You are not alone in perceiving yourself at the center of reality. In a room of 50 people, how many of them feel the same way as you do?
Most of them may have completed a course in college. A lot consider themselves successful in their chosen professions and some occupy high positions in corporations and government. Your perceptions of your importance in society are reckoned on external merits, really, and you get peeved and easily insulted when people fail to acknowledge who you think you are.
Scale that up in a metropolis inhabited by millions of people and they all probably have the same psychological and subjective mindset of self-importance as you do.
It really feels great to be the main focus of attention among friends, family, and peers on every occasion and event. Many of us would not like hearing this, but it is when you are "nobody," that you are "somebody."
In truth, over the course of history, we're just one of the insignificant billions who live and die on this planet -- dust.
There are men and women who thought otherwise, who are so focused on their importance and became less insignificant. They marked their brief time on Earth with conquest, control, mass murder, and power over humanity's common resources.
In the end, we all pay dearly for their defiance of the truth and recorded their names, Stalin, Hitler, Polpot, Mussolini, Mao Tse Tung, among others, in history books with blood, sweat, tears, and mass graves.
Everything about us is insignificant. The workplace where everybody in our immediate circle thinks they are somebody is a good classroom to learn how to become nobody. The people who do their best to put you down make crab mentality sensible.
On occasion, I read Space.com and get astounded and amazed by the information scientists bring to their readers about the "observable universe."
Scientists studying space acknowledge that the data and information they churn out from their studies about the number of stars in the heavens represents only a tiny fraction of the whole.
Thus far, what we know is that there are an estimated 10 trillion galaxies in the universe. A galaxy is a large group of stars, gas, and dust bound together by gravity. Our Sun is a star and all the planets around it are part of a galaxy known as the Milky Way Galaxy.
The Milky Way has an estimated 100 billion stars. When multiplied with 10 trillion galaxies, it results in one septillion stars or a "1" with 24 zeros after it, according to scientists. Imagine that a lot of these stars also contain many modes of dust that we call planets.
Reckoned in terms of the universe, we live on a speck of dust called Planet Earth. From where do we get the notion of our bigness and importance in the scheme of things. "Thou art dust and unto dust, thou shalt return." Every day, hour or minute that this happens little would change beyond the subjective emotional states of the people around us who love or hate us.
I being nobody may have come from a lifelong experience of suffering. If I should depart Earth today, nothing is lost except that I might miss drinking coffee with some friends.
Honestly, even if life isn't concerned with it, like anybody, I struggle with an artificial sense of importance. But this is where things become different for me. On many occasions, I confront this divergence between the story I tell myself and the cold, hard reality. Who I am is not about my net worth, my title and the position that I occupy in society. When we come to it, we're nothing but particles in an infinite sea of entropy and decay.
I do not wish to end there. As a Christian, I return to Psalm 8 in the Bible. Many people read this Psalm to boost their self-importance before God and his people. I read it otherwise acknowledging that there is a God who cares about my feelings of unimportance before him and his creation.
From there, I indulge in the beautiful and sublime. When it comes to the stars, the beautiful can be seen and experienced in a clear December night high above the mountains. The moon and the constellations, including some blazing comets, can be stunning to the eyes.
The Sublime, however, is different. It's more than just visually enticing. It's overwhelming. I experienced it when I first saw the sunrise as a boy, and when I held my son when he was born. In 1991, I saw the Mountains along Kennon Road shaking with the earthquake as huge rock boulders were torn from their sides and came rolling down. The sublime has the power to engorge us at any time.
The sublime is experienced during a heightened sense of existence beyond comfort and normalcy. It's found when we are in awe at the might of nature, it's experienced in the emotion of love, and it's discovered when we are compelled by a great work of art. We indulge it by accepting a degree of inferiority for a connection to something greater.
There is a risk of vulnerability here balanced by the reward of ecstasy. As a boy, I often wondered what it is like to live in the jungle. To cut the story short, I lived in the Sierra Madre mostly on my own after high school and discovered for myself what a pristine environment is with its sounds and all the life that it contains.
Life in a jungle has its ecstasies but you must accept vulnerability as part of it, otherwise, you are cornered in a multitude of fears.
It seems to me that the Earth is a school for people who need to learn that they nobodies before they can become somebody.