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November 23, 2010

"You are enormously insignificant" — really?


The reasoning behind the conclusion drawn in the figure above seems airtight, doesn't it?

That you and I and everyone we know are not even dust in the wind?

Perhaps that's not the case.

"Enormously insignificant" at first glance seems pretty convincing, until you think about it for a moment and realize it's redundant: insignificant by definition means "not signifying," having no appreciable impact or effect on anything else.

So "enormously" adds nothing, it's just an empty adverb.

So we're left with "insignificant" and its apparent dismissal of each of us in terms of mattering at all.

But stop for a second and consider that without your attention to the world, to this very post, in this moment of your existence, the world you're thinking you're not a very big part of wouldn't exist.

Because to bring your world into existence requires your presence and consciousness.

I would argue, therefore, that not only are you not "enormously insignificant" but, rather, that the world depends on you for its existence as much as you need the world.

And that makes you significant.

I won't make the mistake of adding "enormously" because your presence alone is significance enough.

[via mathfail and Milena]

November 23, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on planet earth.

Standing in a desert in the middle east with that thought was rather profound.

Posted by: Fred | Nov 25, 2010 8:13:14 PM

...so you're saying that every moment that each of us conceives a world, a personal reality, the act of conceiving it creates that world. Is it only my world, or a collective world that I conceive? Maybe there is only one thought, "enormously" fragmented. OK, so then, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does that mean that it never actually happened. (unless, of course,the tree has consciousness) and then what happens to the poor bonobos? OK, I'm obviously tired....

Posted by: tamra | Nov 24, 2010 1:53:35 AM

I think the bonobos have got it right. They certainly get more action than most people (and waaaay more than me).

Posted by: Graeme | Nov 24, 2010 1:30:20 AM

We love self delusions of grandeur otherwise we'd still be up in the trees with the Bonobos. Thank goodness for religion and philosophy of navel gazing chimps called humanity.

Posted by: megan | Nov 24, 2010 12:03:56 AM


Posted by: Mrs Brown | Nov 23, 2010 8:42:46 PM

Dude! That was deep.

Posted by: Milena | Nov 23, 2010 7:21:03 PM

Not true! Every single human is awesome!

Posted by: Mike | Nov 23, 2010 12:55:35 PM

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