The following is the introduction to my book Better Living Through Selective Apathy, available on Amazon.
You are insignificant.
The observable universe is 93 billion light-years in diameter. Your relative size to just our own planet is laughably small. Earth is one of the smaller planets in our tiny solar system, revolving around a yellow dwarf star. Our yellow dwarf star is one of the smallest types of stars in the vastness of space.
Compared to our sun, your size and significance is small enough that the word laughable doesn’t even begin to describe it. Compared to the Milky Way galaxy, our solar system is laughably small. The Milky Way is roughly 160 million times as wide as our solar system. How do you compare to that? Well, there is simply no way to describe how hilariously, infinitesimally small you are in comparison. As if all of that weren’t depressing enough, that’s just our galaxy. When compared to the entire universe, our galaxy is to the universe, as a ludicrously small particle of sand on the beaches of the Riviera is to our own solar system.
So, where do you factor in to all of that? You don’t. No one does. No one who ever lived on this planet has ever mattered when compared to the unfathomable expanse of the universe.
In truth, it isn’t conceivable to compare ourselves to the entire universe, so let’s scale things back a little. Let’s compare ourselves to all of the people currently living on the planet. That number is estimated to be around 7,500,000,000 people. If you think that’s even a number you can potentially wrap your mind around, try counting that high out loud. Over human history, the estimate of how many people have ever lived is somewhere around 100,000,000,000 people. That is thirty times more people than currently live in the entire United States of America.
How many of those billions of people throughout human history have truly made a difference in the world? It’s like saying there are roughly nine hundred grains of sand on a beach that actually matter. The odds are very good that you are one not of those important grains of sand.
However, there is some good news. The universe, time, and the immeasurable history of every human being are so huge that they cease to be anything we can possibly comprehend. Each and every one of us exists wholly in, and lives fully in, our own universe. Over that particular universe, we do at least have some small amount of power. The actual physical universe is immense and beyond our ability to comprehend, as is our relative role in all of it. So, too, is our place compared with the vast expanse of time. Thankfully, the things which cause us anxiety or stress or disappointment or anger or any other negative emotion are even more infinitesimally small and insignificant. In addition, we don’t have to live with the pressure of having to create some great universal legacy that will change the world. The odds just aren’t enough in our favor. We don’t matter much, when all is said and done. We only matter to ourselves and to the people whose lives we affect, either directly or indirectly, for better or for worse. That gives each of us significant power over multiple individual universes.
In and of themselves, the things which cause us to be unhappy simply don’t matter. It is our response to those things which makes them matter to us. It helps if we know those things don’t matter. We can then choose to live each moment for the experience that it is, with little or no concern about how they can potentially affect our future. We can choose to view our interactions with others in a more separated and objective way, because in the universal long run, none of us matter. Thus, any negative interactions we have with others also don’t matter. It’s literally not the end of the world if we have a disagreement with another person. We can choose to focus on the interactions we desire to remember and experience.
Our reactions to negative experiences with people and with circumstances can be responded to rather than reacted to. If we choose to think critically about each of those experiences as they happen, and analyze both how and why they affect us, we can reduce anxiety and stress profoundly. The goal of this book is to help you achieve a better balance between the rational and the emotional, and to help you approach the challenges you face with a helpful tool: Selective Apathy.