The Significance of Insignificance
Today marks my 50th birthday. Against an ocean of days that make up my life, this day is nothing but a tiny dot, insignificant yet considerable in marking the passing of one decade to the next. If I live to be 100, this will be my halfway point in life. So it looks like I have a lot of time ahead of me. And that feels significant. But it also seems insignificant.
When I was a kid in Hawaii, I was told never to turn my back on the sea, as water is stronger than stone, and to me that seemed unbelievable but it was probably true. From that moment on, I always looked forward into the vast ocean, unless I was riding a large wave towards shore.
If I was like water, like Bruce Lee recommended, I would flourish in a constant state of flux, and travel in a perpetually inconsistent place. If I was like water, I would leave behind the biggest trace years after I am gone, just like the Grand Canyon. If I was like water, I would be there, and not there at the same time, and I would seem small and insignificant, but actually be large and significant.
In my mind I am quite large. I think everybody must think that about themselves. But I know for a fact that I am just a tiny spec on the Earth, and the Earth is a tiny spec in the Universe. I know I am insignificant.
The graves we saw in the Smoky Mountains were humble and raw, carved by hand with limited tools, worn thin through years of rain, snow and wind blowing away their significance. But still, the lives below the surface were important, as were the leaves above the surface. Those crude markings of time and passing on by the living express significance.
To be insignificant is to be there and not there at the same time. To resist the desire to mark your appearance like a giant hashtag onto the world. To step lightly around the grave sites and remember the significance of the bones underneath and spirits freed from their earthly realm.
Something becomes nothing becomes something.
A dark spot appears in the sky and seems too small to be rain, but thunder leads to lightening and the streets soon turn into rivers and nothing can be heard under the sound of rapid drenching and a rush to run for cover. And then it is over.
The slight sound of crickets and happy sounding frogs that becomes the quietness of sleep and becomes the morning songs of horny birds calling for a mate.
Memory obscures truth, and reality is an illusion, and significance does not matter. Do I remember the significance of my life thus far?
We saw no bears in the Smoky Mountains, but we knew they were there. Several bears appeared in our imagination, although we knew they were just the obscured trunks of trees that fell with a heavy theatrical sigh in the woods. Like the fish that was “this” big, we could probably concoct a tall tale, because truth does not really matter in matters of significance.
Does the tree that falls in the forest make a sound?
The thundering sounds of a train’s wheels on the steel rails, lumbering along the rail ties while we pause in silence to listen, granting the train a moment of significance as it passes transiently behind the creek behind our RV Park.
We are all transients walking through time leaving footsteps only when the ground is soft. Rather arbitrary, our significance, and the same I suppose goes for one single day, in a lifetime of so much more living.
But still, I celebrate this day imagining an ocean which I cannot see, and look straight into the future no matter how insignificant.