Written by: Beau DeCourcy
Six weeks ago I emerged above the tree line on Mt. Katahdin in Maine, miles from even the smallest of towns, under the cover of countless stars, a new moon, and surrounded by immense darkness. I was forced to look up simply because there was nothing else around for me to see. As I stared up, I was affected beyond my will to be reminded of my own insignificance. I was belittled, humbled and ashamed, yet as my humility grew, I began to relax more deeply than I have ever felt. You see, when you realize just how insignificant you really are in the grand scheme, what do you really have to worry about?
I’ve heard of a location in Hawaii that is so remote and high, people nearly lose their minds getting lost peering into the universe. This is amazing and tragic at the same time for a couple of reasons. First, that there are only a few remote locations left to see such an impactful night sky, and second that there are adults walking around on the planet that have never had the chance to gain perspective from the humility of such an infinite experience.
Ever since that night, I have been thinking a lot about what this means to humans today. What are the implications of an ever increasing number of children growing up without ever having the ability to see the depths of the stars on a clear night because the city lights drown them out?
No wonder so many of us are stressed, depressed and anxious. Our perspective and context is diminishing among the illumination of technology. We believe it is actually possible to mess up; that if we don’t obtain a certain social status then we have failed! Most of us are walking around frantically achieving for the sake of achieving as if there is some universal scorecard. Getting a chance to flirt with infinity for just one night tells us something different: it’s a mirage, a fallacy and quite frankly a sick joke.
From beauty to danger…
Aside form the stars I saw that night on the mountain, I also saw far more meteors than I have ever seen. They were falling all around, some faint, some alarmingly large and bright. And then I realized what terrified me: this is going on all the time!
I don’t mean to scare you, but recently a couple Russian astronomers with the newest and leading telescope technology identified an asteroid expected to make impact with the earth in 93 years! They say it’s big enough to end it all. What if they’re right? What does that mean to the way you’re currently living?
Enter the ancestral context…
Human beings are interesting animals. We have inherited a relentless drive to survive at all costs and to be attractive and important, yet we have also been “cursed” with a powerful brain that reminds us, nearly every moment, that not only are we insignificant but also expendable.
From what I have noticed, most of us choose to disconnect from our own mortality as often as possible. And to escape the fear of our own insignificance and vulnerability, we distract our powerful brains in a myriad of artificial importance.
We make our lives as safe and as busy as possible, floating from task to task, getting lost in fictitious TV series, gossip and competitions so that we can be lulled into the sense that the world is small and we matter in the grand scheme. But we have it all backwards. In our attempt to establish meaning, we have completely lost contact with reality because we gaze tirelessly at our smart phones, computers, and TV’s, never looking upward, but even if we do, we remain largely insulated from the darkness and infinity.
1000 years from now nobody and nothing will care that you made it to the top tax bracket. There will be no one who cares you had 1 million twitter followers and that you were in the top 3 grossing movies of all time. And I’m being generous with using 1000 years…
If we take ourselves too seriously, assigning a counterfeit importance to social status, economic gain, and the opinions of the mainstream, we will all invariably end up in a world of hurt. In fact, most of us already are.
Don’t waste another moment chaining yourself with goals, and fears perpetuated by a short-sighted existence. All you need to do is look up, not figuratively but literally. Get out of the city, as far and as often as possible and look up. See the ancient light of stars that dwarf our own sun and realize you’re tiny, insignificant and eventually no one will remember you. And as you look upward, breathe deeply so that you realize your insignificance brings you total freedom. Freedom to fail, drive a junk car, and free to live a self-defined life.