There is something that no one has ever told you, but that you know all the same. Deep down, inside yourself, you have always known that you are not special, even though the World appears to be set up to inculcate the idea within you that you are.
That is not to say that we are not individually important or special to specific people, such as our parents, our children, our spouses and our close friends. Clearly on a small scale almost everyone is special and valuable in their individuality to a limited number of other people.
Nonetheless, almost none of us are genuinely special. There are not many people who rise to a presence in the shared human consciousness such as Nelson Mandela or Barack Obama, or indeed fall into condemnation so universally as Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler, through having a wide-ranging and indeed all-consuming impact on the life of our humanity.
The existential need to embrace our inherently inconsequential nature is at the core of the conflict we feel with the very modern concept of the triumph and supremacy of the individual. All around us in our so-called modern world there are messages attempting to reinforce that we matter, that we have significance and that our decisions about our lives can in some way elevate the human condition, but the truth is far more complex than these simple manipulations that in truth are designed to provoke us into consumption and a perpetuation of the capitalist paradigm.
“But what about Art?” I hope you are about to ask. Well, I agree that Art can indeed elevate our humanity, and at the same time that artistic endeavour does not need to reach such lofty heights. Music, the written word, drama, painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, dance, storytelling and the playing of games are all fundamental to the human experience, they are the ways in which we express our joys and fears and explore the meaning of our lives and the life of our planet. In some rare cases Art can alter our understanding of who we are in a complete and universal way, and more commonly Art can become a key to emotional and intellectual discovery for smaller, different groups amongst human society. Some rare, unusual Artists do indeed become special people, joining the ranks of great statespersons, thinkers, scientists and inventors, but those who truly surpass the mundane are few and far between, in all of these areas of endeavour.
If all of this is true, then what can be the point of our lives? Why should anyone strive to achieve anything? Are a small number of us destined for greatness and the rest must simply accept the safe comfort of anonymity and the average? I do not personally hold with the idea of destiny, and I think that there is scope for any one of us to rise above the common herd and become a paragon of some kind, for good or ill, but two things remain true.
There is no shame, no failure, in an anonymous and small life. Every life touches the lives of others, and it is in our shared well being, as a colossal, gestält entity that we achieve the greatest harmony. Every life with all of its tiny effects on the lives of others has great worth, albeit worth that we cannot see from our own close-quarters viewpoint. We are all one being, one consciousness, interconnected and present at once in ourselves and in every other human being alive or dead and yet still remembered.
The price of ascending to heights or descending to depths above or below the commonwealth of people, is astronomical. To be raised up as a positive example or to delve deep down into evil as a miscreant is no simple or painless endeavour. The distinction is not its own reward, even for those who inspire and delight there is little inherent joy in becoming such a person. Moreover, the personal cost to those that surround these special people is often far greater than the common good, or indeed the widespread evil that comes to be visited upon the World by those that chart the course of the outlier.
If we are to be able to make our peace with the puzzle that is our humanity, to make sense of our lives, we must first confront the fact of our being inconsequential alone, and then find our meaning in the pursuit of the betterment of our race, and our place within that process, whether that means being an agent of good, or an agent of change, or even taking a darker path that we might give meaning to the light. Some of us will be paragons, but most of us need to find the beauty and the meaning in being significant yet insignificant as living parts in the great machine of life.