“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
A good motto to live by as any, is it not?
Everyone, or almost everyone, when they begin any endeavour, try to reach any goal, either for their own sake or someone else’s, find themselves running up against their own insignificance. As the only animals who are aware of our own mortality, it can be difficult sometimes to have the motivation to keep on living, and living well, when you know it will end and all will return to dust one day—you, books, the buildings, human civilisation, the entire planet.
What’s the point? All over the world, a thousand times every second, the same question is repeated in hearts and minds, and none of them receive any answers. At least not good, proper, comforting ones, like, you exist because you need to fulfill a destiny, a plan, encoded into the universe since the beginning of everything or God is having his lunch break at the moment; please hold and he will be with you shortly. Instead, we are very well aware that we shape our own destinies every time we make the slightest decision, that time runs only forward, and that even if some form of Creator does exist, he or she is too obscure to be of any help to us, and his plan does not involve healing the suffering and pain that exists in the world today. Any person with an ounce of sense who has taken a good look at history and human nature will know that the truth is, well, we’re on our own.
If you die, it does not matter; but don’t worry, it doesn’t matter if anyone dies; in fact, it wouldn’t matter if an entire country vaporized overnight, or, why stop there, human civilisation itself; the universe would just go on minding its business as it always has.
It happened to the dinosaurs, after all. While they may have been lacking somewhat in the intelligence department, they lived, ate, bred and died as we did, and now they’ve got nothing to show for themselves except great bones buried in the earth. Did they matter? No. Did all of the species, thousands and thousands, that have gone extinct throughout the history of the planet matter? No. The fact is, wondrous as life is, we don’t really know what it is, or what it is about. We’re just stuck in the middle of it, trying to puzzle out an unsolvable mystery using our puny minds.
Which is why Mahatma Ghandi’s quote is so pertinent to each and everyone of us. Even though, in the full scheme of things, what we do does not matter, on the human scale of things, it does. It really does. All the books and films and art, all the inventions, everything that exists around you in the world today, was dreamed and created by a human being, and without them, you and I would have nothing. It’s a mind-boggling thought if you truly let it sink in. Without other humans and their insignificant little activities, we would still be in the caves, hunting and gathering our food and jumping every time a wolf howled in the distance at night.
To work and to do whatever you feel you need to do, what your heart calls you to do, for the benefit of both yourself and humanity, is the most noble task any person can undertake. Yes, everything means nothing—but it also means everything, and for that reason, we must fight to make our dreams come true, no matter the cost or pain. Meaninglessness is no excuse for laziness. The fact that you exist, and other people exist and have existed and will exist, is reason enough to keep on working to make the world a better place.