Mantra

It’s hard to let go. To be one among billions, and really appreciate your smallness against the mind-blowing scope of the cosmos. It’s hard to come to the point in your life when you begin to know yourself and understand that you are nothing — and at the same time everything, but only to yourself. It imposes a certain humility which doesn’t come easily to a society obsessed with fame and the unparalleled value of the individual. We want so badly to be special, to make our atom of time become relevant to someone other than ourselves. To be seen, to be heard. Not to drift alone in the vastness of space-time, but to link ourselves with others and inflate our existence beyond its natural limitations. We leave words on the path behind us. We show each other pictures, relics we’ve picked up along the way. We share our stories — each so very like the others, each convinced of its meaning and uniqueness, its sovereign right to exist.

I’ve been struggling with this myself. Humility is my superpower, my cloak, yet even for someone accustomed to smallness, there is the awful human tendency to bloat one’s self-importance and cling to the dream of mattering. Sometimes I lie in bed with my inner voice whispering, You are nothing, just let go, picturing my body as a grain of sand on an infinite beach, and reaching for the comfort in that image, the release from want. The trouble, of course, is that our grain of sand is locked in place with all the others, so the scope of the beach can scarcely be imagined. We are aware of what immediately surrounds us. By shifting ourselves, we hope to shift others, so we work all our lives to move, to rub up against the world and make it move with us.

It’s a struggle to balance these two ideas over the abyss of true sentience. The sum total of everything we are — every atom in our struggling bodies, every flicker of thought, god-given talent, and act of heroism, no matter how noble or prodigious we might be — is zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing, man. You are nothing, just let go.

Does it matter to you?