A Scale That Measures Infinity

Egotism is defined as the practice of talking and thinking about oneself excessively because of an undue sense of self-importance. This is a quality we tend to frown upon on the individual level. Yet, ironically, as a whole, our species seems to be incapable of looking away from the proverbial vanity mirror. Self-obsession is unacceptable on the individual level, but merely par for the course on the group level. Meanwhile, each individual human is simply a massive conglomerative group of somewhere around 37 trillioncells and researchers believe only 108 billion people have ever lived. So, to scale, the individual is unfathomablymore prolific than the group. Yet the group, at all levels of organization (clubs, companies, colonies, cities, countries, etc.), seems to invariably suffer from this unfavorable malady known as egotism, this undue sense of self-importance.

I would argue that to live, period, regardless of species, is to carry an undue sense of self-importance. A mighty sizable ego is almost a prerequisite for being able to carry on every day living - hunting for food, seeking shelter, attempting to procreate - in a universe that is not only indifferent about your existence, but that seems to never stop finding new ways to attempt to do you in, to end your bloodline. But we just keep going. We keep trekking forward. Whether it's humans, tigers, frogs, or ferns, biology just keeps on pushing. Where there is a will, there is a way. And life always finds a way.

But this is just life on earth. This rock. This pebble. The only home we've ever known. This tiny, minuscule, insignificant speck blasting through infinity. To the cosmos, our entire planet is less significant than a single grain of sand is to a tourist on a beach. Biology has pitted us all against each other in a grotesque coliseum-style fight for dominance and supremacy. Humans, as well as every species we've ever been at odds with. Earth is the coliseum, and each species plays the role of an individual warrior. Right now, humans seem to run the show. We've domesticated countless species. We've built communities. And we've built weapons and walls to protect those communities. We've dominated so successfully and for so long that we've, for all of known human history, been attempting to dominate each other. Although, the entirety of human history - hell, the entirety of life on earth - is merely the blink of an eye for the cosmos. Our lives, our activities, our struggles - no matter how big or small - are completely inconsequential. Most people are dead, and everybody will share that experience far sooner than later on a cosmic scale.

So while you're stuck in traffic in your $30,000 car, aggressively cutting people off and nosing up behind others, punching your steering wheel with one hand while you anxiously grip your $6 cup of coffee with the other, just take a moment to look around and reflect on how absolutely silly you look - how completely absurd it all is. When you go home to your $250,000 house that you'll be making payments on until you die, crack open your beer or your bottle of wine, and complain about being "stuck in the rat race," just try to be mindful of who put you there.

You work to live, and you live to work. You bought a bunch of things that you couldn't afford and didn't need, because somebody told you it was a good idea. You're no longer struggling to survive. No, no. You're overweight, sedentary, and complacent. "Survive" left your vocabulary a long time ago. You're just struggling to get by. You've got everything you could ever want, but you don't really own any of it, and you don't even have time to use it because you're too busy paying for it.

Just try to take an objective look at that from the outside. Because here you are, holding on for dear life to the side of an insignificantly tiny yet insurmountably enormous rock. Hurdling through infinity. Circling at 67,000 miles per hour around an inconceivably large ball of fire, that is itself circling around an even more inconceivably large black hole... Whatever the fuck that is, it doesn't even know you exist, much less care about you. You're constantly at the mercy of natural disasters and catastrophic diseases. You're one angry-world-leader away from total nuclear annihilation. Everyone you've ever known will die. Everyone you've ever loved or hated. Ancestors and descendants. And that's not even good enough for you. Life got too easy in the modern world. You had to go and find new, pointless and imaginary things to worry about. Just to try to feel a little bit of meaning. Some kind of purpose. So here you are, wrapped in your cozy blanket of financial angst and consumerist aggression. Are you happy? Are you comfortable? Are you entertained? Are you feeling a sense of purpose yet? A sense of meaning?

The fact remains that no matter how important and urgent and dire and dramatic your problems seem to you, the universe doesn't care. Hell, your neighbor doesn't even care. There are over 7.65 billion individual human beings on this earth - each one living their own individual life that, to them, is the most important thing. Everyone else around them, just supporting characters in the show that is the sitcom of their existence. We are all the stars of our own shows. While playing the role of supporting actors in the shows of others. While simply playing as background actors in the roles of others. We remain completely irrelevant to the lives of others. To a stranger who's path you will never cross, your very existence is completely irrelevant. And vice versa. But to the universe, relevancy itself isn't even relevant. The sun could swallow up earth tomorrow, devouring every single one of our planet's ever-expanding, infinitely interwoven dramas.

The universe is constantly expanding. That means that, on every level, the universe is constantly expanding. From the smallest of the small to the biggest of the big. Every single thing that we've ever known to exist has existed within the universe. Thus, everything you've ever known to exist is existing within a constant state of expansion. From the microbes in your gut, to the maggots devouring the carcass of that raccoon you ran over last week. From the lowliest, most insignificant point within our solar system, to the most massive super-nova getting ready to detonate and take out half of Orion's Belt.

To the microbes in your gut, youare the universe and your organs are the galaxies. All of life on earth is just different forms of viruses, bacteria, all together making up the micro-biome of the super organism that we call earth, which itself is just a single cell in the micro-biome of the cosmos.

When people really start to go out to other celestial bodies (Moon, Mars, etc.), it'll just be the same as when you have a cold and sneeze near somebody else, passing your germs on. But on a slightly (key word: slightly) larger scale. Earth is sick right now, it's got the sniffles. When it finally sneezes and releases legions of the virus known as humans, those closest by (our solar system) will be the first to become infected. Just as the people closest to you are the first to contract your cold.

Who's to say it isn't the case that everything just infinitely scales in both directions? Zoom in as far as you can and find that hidden within each individual atom is an entire universe. Zoom out as far as you can, only to find that our very universe exists within a single atom in an even larger universe.

We are forever blinded by the trappings of our currently accepted scientific knowledge, yet our worldview has expanded dramatically over the last few centuries. There is no telling what we'll discover in the next few. Maybe a scale that measures infinity?

jake chrismanComment