The Joy of Being Unimportant
“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” – John C. Maxwell
We’re raised believing that we’re special, but maybe it would humble us to consciously consider our unimportance in the universe. We’re really not the center of the world, even if our girl- or boyfriend tells us so, or our gigantic paycheck – and all the fabulous things that we own – might make us believe that we are.
The barrenness that surrounds us is enormous. We’re basically nothing but ancient stardust, residing on a tiny globe, orbiting a blazing ball of burning gas in the middle of an infinite sea of cosmological decay. Nobody knows what we are doing here, but it must be important, as we deem ourselves to be important. That’s why we always wonder about the meaning of life, while deep down we know that there isn’t any.
Recognizing our unimportance sets us free from the commands of the egocentric voice in our head that’s essentially causing many of the problems in our lives. This voice nurtures the idea that we are entitled to and deserve anything that we want. The only thing we have, however, is the opportunity to be alive in this specific nanosecond. The previous nanosecond is gone, the next nanosecond isn’t certain, and the end is always near. So, we can strive for what we want, but it can be taken away or lost at any moment, as that is how the universe goes about.
You will die. I hope this isn’t news to you. Before you start worrying about what you might think on your deathbed, whether you will be happy with the choices you’ve made, think about the thousands of days before that day. They are the ones you should be worrying about, as they possibly will be just as insignificant as your dying day, and that also doesn’t matter, as nothing you can do or think really matters much.
To fully be alive, we have to accept a degree of inferiority towards something greater. Confidence of how meaningless we are can be rewarded by true happiness. If you cannot live with the idea that this is nothing and your life means nothing and anything you ever do will be nothing, you will not be able to live a brave life. Wanting to be relevant induces in your mind a panic that robs you from the great joys in life.
Because you can find liberation in all this, if you truly want to. You don’t have to strive for fame. You don’t have to become wealthy, be self-sacrificing, be a decent person, even. You don’t have to worry about anything, because what is it all going to lead to? Nothing at all.
So, live a little and accept your nothingness. There are very few things in life that merit your interest, just as you don’t especially deserve any interest yourself.
It’s a little conceptual shift you need to come up with, to make everything that happens to you more bearable. And if you’re lucky, you might even enjoy parts of it. Because when all is said and done, the things you stress about, your day to day decisions that seem to be essential, won’t make the slightest difference.
Admitting that you are nothing, that your life means nothing, will make you able to endure that your future is reliably pointless. Best case scenario is that it is going to be okay. So you may as well take it a step further, and stop chasing your hopes and dreams. Instead you should maybe just try to accept whatever comes next. Our lives are composed out of ‘whatever comes next’. You can try to control it, but you’ll fail miserably. As a great philosopher once said: whatever will be, will be.
The universe isn’t concerned with our fabricated sense of importance. Sooner or later, there will be a discrepancy between the story we are living, and the harsh reality that takes place. You might have seen it coming and be not surprised by it, or you may well experience a mental breakdown, of which you could never recover.
Alternatively, when you realize you are insignificant, you don’t have to pretend that the group you belong to is anything else than a figment of your imagination, that the prestige you have attained is making you more important than billions of others (and then I am only counting the living creatures on this little planet we call home).
Wouldn’t it be better for you to expect that day of wisdom to come, so that you can free yourself from the societal burdens of life right now? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have no regret for what has passed, and to not worry about what is coming?
Just imagine that you could stop being anxious about death, about the life you are living before you die. Understand that your illustrious legacy, containing all the good things you’ve done, is something that only exists in your mind, while you are alive. When we die, we cannot confirm our actions, good or bad, anymore. We will not be able to think about our legacy and be proud of what we’ve done, as being dead is experiencing nothing, and being aware of nothing.
Also, the people you care about? They are of no importance. No one actually matters, and what they think of you, whether you are alive or death, doesn’t matter either. This is the bitter truth that few of us are able to take in, but it remains true, nevertheless.
Don’t take life so seriously. When you die, it is game over. All you can do is have fun while playing. In the end, not a single person will care about what you did in your life and the great legacy you worked so hard for, and that you have left behind, will be totally meaningless.
Like the great stand-up comedian Bill Hicks used to say: “The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real, because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” Other people have remembered, and they come to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real…” It’s just a ride.”
© 2017 – David Lee Kollberg