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Thursday, June 02, 2005
Insidious Insignificance
"You think the world revolves around you!" What a common criticism. I know I've had it said to me. My response lately has been, "Who doesn't?" Admit it or not, perhaps excepting the parent/child relationship (BUT "it would break my heart if my child were ever hurt; it would kill me if something ever happened to my child"), you are the most important person in your little world. It only stands to reason really.

I see the world everyday through these eyes, filter it through this sarcastic, optimistic, idealistic brain. I automatically and immediately gauge how an event will effect me. I continuously, and often subconsciously, take steps to protect myself, improve myself, shelter myself, put myself forward. Of course we feel for people, love people, cry for someone else's pain, share in someone else's joy. Of course we care if an action we take will hurt someone else and try to avoid that situation if we can. But behind it all, aren't we doing all these things at least partly because they have consequences for us? Perhaps I'm simply revealing myself as an utterly selfish woman.

So let's go on the premise that an individual's world does revolve around that individual. What hurts us the most, then, is having this illusion being made to feel insignificant. In the larger scheme of things it's like thinking about the fact that life would go on exactly the same for almost everyone in the entire world if you were no longer in it. There is a line in Jane Eyre that has always creeped me out. Paraphrased, it's something like, "the hands that embroidered the cushions on these stools were long ago dust." Someone had spent hours and hours straining their eyes with a tiny needle and thread to make these cushions, which were still being used, but no one remembered who. That explains the drive to be famous, to leave your mark on the world. "I'm not insignificant, people are going to remember my name long after I'm dead."

One step down on the scale, it's like what happened with me and my airline ticket. Anyone who's battled a large corporation has felt this futility. You know you are just one small customer who really has no power as one individual to affect their business in anyway. Even if you tell everyone you know not to use a particular company and they don't, it typically won't even make a dent. My brother and sister-in-law fought and fought against a Wal-Mart going in their backyard. They went to meetings, they petitioned, they gave speeches and handed out buttons. Six months later there was a Wal-Mart in their backyard. They felt powerless and insignificant.

Ever go on an online dating site and send out email after email to people that you think you could possibly have a chance with and then get one email back? It hurts to know you were nothing to all those other people. They read your email, looked at your picture and decided you were a waste of their time. Or you go out on a first date and never hear anything again...Insignificant.

Or that one person that you follow with your eyes, whose laugh you memorize, whose facial expressions you know by heart. That one person can tell you, with words or silently, that you are only a small, pleasant yet unnecessary, part of their life and suddenly you've never felt more insignificant.

There are so many examples that it's hard to choose. But I've come to the conclusion that nothing hurts more.
posted by LoRi~fLoWer
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