When I was in seventh grade, I went on a camping trip with my Boy Scout troop. Our favorite camping site was an old farm a couple of hours outside of Seattle, with trees isolating us from even more trees. It had been a long day of cooking and hauling water, and a couple of friends and I were walking back from a campfire when I looked up. There wasn’t a moon that night, and it felt like time just froze right then. The sky was a dark purple, and the Milky Way ran like a ragged strip across the sky. Stars were peppered all over the sky, tighter and more numerous than I had ever seen. Seeing this before me, my thoughts ran wild. What if all of those stars had planets on them? If there were other intelligences out there, looking out and seeing a similar thing I saw.
That night has stayed with me, always reminding me where I am in the universe. I may be over six feet tall, and I may be pretty smart, but in the grand scheme of things, I am small. And that’s something other people fail to see. While you may be important to other people, and you may have made huge advances that helped humankind, you are ultimately insignificant to anything else out there in the universe.
When I first thought of this, it saddened me. How could I do anything that mattered in this uncomprehendingly huge universe? But now I know that it doesn’t matter what I do. We are defined by the people around us. My friends think I’m a good person, so I am. Other people may think I’m an elitist snob, or that I hate kittens. But other people define everything about me. All I can do is try to do what makes the most people see me in a good light.
All of this adds up to how I try to live my life. Whatever I do is inconsequential if I zoom far enough out, so I just live. I let things just happen, and if they seem to be bad, I know that later on it will work out. Now, this doesn’t mean I just expect everything to work out to my advantage. But I do expect everything to work out to the advantage of the system. Just as my body is a system, with all of the cells and organs working to continue, my family works for the betterment of the unit and it’s members, society works towards the betterment of itself and its members. This system of advancing members applies not only to small societies, but also to the whole planet and conceivably, the universe.