At Once I Knew
I’ve never looked at Facebook before and felt small. Bored, annoyed, intrigued—yes. Never small. But as a couple hundred diverse lives updated their statuses on my feed, I suddenly felt, working from my couch, that my life was very unimportant.
Businessmen in Korea are signing deals in right now. Children in Saudi Arabia are scurrying to school, as some hikers are probably lost in the woods somewhere in Wyoming, and some boat is probably taking on too much water while tuna-fishing in the Bering Sea.
The world is like one gigantic beehive, with all our lives crammed together, humming away. I sit here, simply breathing, as lights flicker on And I am very, very small.
It’s not so bad. I don’t mind being small. The whole spinning universe looks all the more magnificent when you know you’re an unnecessary part.
But there’s the catch. Knowing we’re unnecessary doesn’t exactly give the warm fuzzies.
I was told the other day that the reason the Harry Potter books were such bestsellers was because every highschool and middle school kid could identify with Harry’s struggles. He was a perfectly ordinary, bullied little boy. He was also secretly, in his own way, magnificent.
In the pit of our stomachs, we know we’re perfectly ordinary; but we live with the hope that, like Harry, we’ll be proven wrong.
This started me wondering how many things we do to prove our own magnificence. Every contest-driven reality TV show (Cupcake Wars or Elite Models) is fueled by this urge to stand out. The winner is eventually the one who does. But maybe the whole racket is designed so the viewer at home can critique the winner the entire time, bolstering their own sense of superiority, and knowing that if that person on the screen is magnificent, they are even better.
Jane Austen asked, “What are men to rocks and mountains?” and Shakespeare said through Hamlet that even kings are never really more than the dust that will one day get caught on a traveler’s shoe. This could lead to nihilism; reaching out, Gatsby-like, for a still unattainable significance.
This recognition of smallness is like finding childhood again. Stars are more dazzling this way, sleep feels more peaceful, and the breezes are sweeter. I am small; yes, small enough to see that my continued humming along in this vast expanse is a miracle.
I am not needed, but I am loved.
While the world tilts and wobbles on its axis, and there are explosions and hurricanes and snowstorms, I am still here and He knows my name.