‘Man cannot stand a meaningless life.’ Jung
Most people desire to live a meaningful life with a sense of accomplishment. This does not have to include financial accomplishment, though most people want that too and understandably, it’s important, but not all important. You can gain a sense of wellbeing from pursuing educational, sporting, artistic, business, intellectual, spiritual or relationship desires, to whatever degree you wish. And while wellbeing is important, I think a lot of people want something more than that.
People want to know who they are as a unique self, separate from others who they are close to and distinct from the general collective. They also want to know that they matter.
Whether or not there’s a greater overall or universal purpose is irrelevant, this is a deep, individual need and one that can be met on the individual level.
After all, the universe is 13.8 billion years old and ‘young’ earth only four and a half billion years. The average life expectancy of people is now around 73 years old globally but varying greatly across countries with many first world countries at 82 – 85 years old and the lowest in the Central African Republic at 53 years old. That is still more than double compared with the pre-modern world where life expectancy was around 30 years in all regions of the world. In other words, we live an inexpressibly short amount of time when we take the universe as a reference point.
In this context, we are also infinitesimally small.
The observable universe is 93 billion light-years ‘big’ That means it would take light travelling at 299 792 458 meters per second (which is fast) 93 billion years to get from one end of the universe to the other. Not simply that, but the universe is expanding, so as time goes on for us, that distance becomes larger. And, although it’s not yet proven, there are many scientists who believe that there is not just one, but multiple universes which would blow this, and a lot of things, out of the water.
And even though there are now almost eight billion people on earth, the number hardly makes a dent by universal standards.
For example, there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy and one hundred billion galaxies in the universe. The Andromeda galaxy, close to earth, has a trillion stars and IC 1101 has 100 trillion stars.
Our minds simply cannot comprehend the vastness of space or the amount of ‘stuff’ that it contains.
That makes our being here all the more astonishing. But it is.
If you try and put a number to it then scientists have calculated (based on the probabilities of an egg successfully fusing with a sperm and the chance of the unbroken chain of your ancestors having reached and survived reproductive age, and so forth) that the chances of you being born are about 1 in 400 trillion.
Stop to think about that. The chances of you being born are 1 in 400 trillion.
It means that just being human and alive makes you a miracle, and I don’t mean that in a religious sense.
What is even more astounding is that of the 7.7 billion miracles alive in the world today (and now I am just talking about human beings, who are by population size one of the smaller species on earth) not one is the same.
(As for population size the oceans contain about 24 billion billion billion SAR11 bacteria and there are more than 1.4 billion insects for each human on the planet. Research has found the deep life ecosystem in the Earth’s crust dramatically exceeds the biomass of the entire human population on Earth and is incredibly diverse.)
So not only do you have a 1 in 400 trillion chance of being born but you are different from nearly 8 billion other people who also had only a 1 in 400 trillion chance of being born.
You are the only one who has your fingerprints, the complex patterns of ridges and furrows formed by the cartilage of your outer ears, the microscopic hair cells in the cochlea of your inner ears which produce their own faint sounds, your ‘thermal plume’ (smell, a unique combination of chemicals, an atomic fingerprint of your scent), the way you walk, the way you sit, your bottom (yes indeed) and the way that your skull transmits sounds, different for each person.
It means that as you sit next to someone at the same table, eating the same food, listening to the same conversation, you are literally experiencing a different reality from the person with whom you are sharing it.
There is, literally, no one like you who has ever been born or will be born again (aside from some really speculative theory about doppelgangers in alternative universes) and that should be enough for you to know that you matter even though you may not know how, or why, or others may try to convince you that the universe as a reference point blows everything else out the water.