I've been quite fascinated by the relative insignificance of human existence, the shortness of life. We might as well be a letter in a word in a sentence on a page in a book in a library in a city in one country in this enormous universe! And that kind of fear and insignificance has kept me awake at night.
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I've been quite fascinated by the relative insignificance of human existence, the shortness of life. We might as well be a letter in a word in a sentence on a page in a book in a library in a city in one country in this enormous universe! And that kind of fear and insignificance has kept me awake at night. I feel like it must be universal. Everybody must know that somewhere.
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There is a magnificent intensity in life that comes when we are not in control but are only reacting, living, surviving. I am not a religious man per se...but for me, to go to sea is to get a glimpse of the face of God. At sea I am reminded of my insignificance-of all men's insignificance. It is a wonderful feeling to be so humbled.
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Failure is easy to measure. Failure is an event.Harder to measure is insignificance. A nonevent. Insignificance creeps, it dawns, it gives you hope, then delusion, then one day, when you're not looking, it's there, at your front door, on your desk, in the mirror, or not, not any of that, it's the lack of all that. One day, when you are looking, it's not looking, no one is. You lie in your bed and realize that if you don't get out of bed and into the world today, it is very likely no one will even notice.
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I wish I could describe the feeling of being at sea, the anguish, frustration, and fear, the beauty that accompanies threatening spectacles, the spiritual communion with creatures in whose domain I sail. There is a magnificent intensity in life that comes when we are not in control but are only reacting, living, surviving. I am not a religious man per se. My own cosmology is convoluted and not in line with any particular church or philosphy. But for me, to go to sea is to glimpse the face of God. At sea i am reminded of my insignificance- of all men's insignificance. It is a wonderful feeling to be so humbled.
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You know better than I that in a Republic talent is always suspect. A man attains an elevated position only when his mediocrity prevents him from being a threat to others. And for this reason a democracy is never governed by the most competent, but rather by those whose insignificance will not jeopardize anyone else's self-esteem.
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But time soon passes. Even the deepest pain eventually loses its edge in the more vivid reality of the present; then, what once was unbearable becomes strangely familiar. And after much familiarity, it assumes the insignificance of just another milestone, ever marking the journey to higher ground.
N. Maria Kwami
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I believe that around us there is only one word on all sides, one immense word which reveals our solitude and extinguishes our radiance: Nothing! I believe that that word does not point to our insignificance or our unhappiness, but on the contrary to our fulfillment and our divinity, since everything is in ourselves.
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The time has come for us to admit our insignificance by making discoveries in the infinite unexplored cosmos. Only then shall we realize that we are nothing but ants in the vast state of the universe. And yet our future and our opportunities lie in the universe, where gods promised they would.
Erich von De¤niken
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The earthquake, however, must be to every one a most impressive event: the earth, considered from our earliest childhood as the type of solidity, has oscillated like a thin crust beneath our feet; and in seeing the laboured works of man in a moment overthrown, we feel the insignificance of his boasted power.
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to never forget your own insignificance. to never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. to never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. to respect strength, never power. above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. and never, never, to forget.
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A man is reputed to have thought and eloquence; he cannot, for all that, say a word to his cousin or his uncle. They accuse his silence with as much reason as they would blame the insignificance of a dial in the shade. In the sun it will mark the hour. Among those who enjoy his thought, he will regain his tongue.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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There is nothing so insupportable to man as to be in entire repose, without passion, occupation, amusement, or application. Then it is that he feels his own nothingness, isolation, insignificance, dependent nature, powerless, emptiness. Immediately there issue from his soul ennui, sadness, chagrin, vexation, despair.
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When one becomes for an instant one's former self, that is to say different from what one has been for some time past, one's sensibility, being no longer dulled by habit, receives from the slightest stimulus vivid impressions which make everything that has preceded them fade into insignificance, impressions to which, because of their intensity, we attach ourselves with the momentary enthusiasm of a drunkard.
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Men love liberty because it protects them from control and humiliation from others, and thus affords them the possibility of dignity. They loathe liberty because it throws them back on their own abilities and resources, and thus confronts them with the possibility of insignificance.
Thomas Stephen Szasz
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We are not grand because we are at the top of the food chain or because we can alter our environment - the environment will outlast us with its unfathomable forces and unyielding powers. But rather than be bound and defeated by our insignificance, we are bold because we exercise our will anyway, despite the ephemeral and delicate presence we have in this desert, on this planet, in this universe.
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Sometimes people stumble over this vastness in relation to the apparent insignificance of man. It does seem to make us infinitesimally small. But the meaning of this magnitude is not mainly about us. It's about God... The reason for 'wasting' so much space on a universe to house a speck of humanity is to make a point about our maker, not us.
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People get cranky when you burst their bubble. Over time, advances in astronomy have relentlessly reinforced the utter insignificance of Earth on a celestial scale. Fortunately, political and religious leaders stopped barbecuing astronomers for saying so, turning their spits with human-rights activists instead.
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There's only one way for an individual to remain upright, not to fall to pieces, not to sink into the mire of self-oblivionorself-contempt. That's calmly to turn away from everything, to say, "Enough!" and, folding one's useless arms across one's empty breast, to retain the ultimate, the sole attainable virtue, the virtue of recognizing one's own insignificance.
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As is so often the case with a legend, every incident has two possible interpretations, the plausible and the one that is molded to suit the making of the myth. Man is a romantic at heart and will always put aside dull, plodding reason for the excitement of an enigma. As Doc had pointed out, mystery, not logic, is what gives us hope and keeps us believing in a force greater than our own insignificance.
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It is not quite true that there are no good letters written in America: among my own circle of correspondents there, there are ladies and gentlemen whose letters would stand a comparison with any for frankness, grace, and epistolary beauty of every kind. But I am not aware of any medium between this excellence and the boarding-school insignificance which characterizes the rest.
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Yes, the world may aspire to vacuousness, lost souls mourn beauty, insignificance surrounds us. Then let us drink a cup of tea. Silence descends, one hears the wind outside, autumn leaves rustle and take flight, the cat sleeps in a warm pool of light. And, with each swallow, time is sublimed.
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To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.
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I do... to this day, think that success is being able to look in the mirror and know that I'm alright on that day. I don't believe I've made it-I believe that I'm making it. I believe that I've found my past so that I can live in the present, it's the most important thing to me. The books and the plays and the touring and the gigs and the speeches and the cash... it all pales into insignificance when compared with knowing that I didn't do anything wrong, and I'm going to be okay now.
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Life can be confusing. Good God, and how. Sometimes it seems like the older I get, the more confused I become. That seems ass-backwards. I thought I was supposed to be getting wiser. Instead, I just keep getting hit over the head with my relative insignificance in the greater scheme of the universe. Confusing, life. But it beats the hell out of the alternative.
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We are biological creatures. We are born, we live, we die. There is no transcendent purpose to existence. At best we are creatures of reason, and by using reason we can cure ourselves of emotional excess. Purged of both hope and fear, we find courage in the face of helplessness, insignificance and uncertainty.
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In this era of non-judgmental mush, too many Americans have become incapable of facing the brutal reality of unprovoked hatred, based on envy, resentment and ultimately on a vicious urge to lash out against others for the pain of ones own insignificance. That has been a common thread in things as disparate as ghetto riots, two world wars, and now Islamic terrorism.
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A mountain is the best medicine for a troubled mind. Seldom does man ponder his own insignificance. He thinks he is master of all things. He thinks the world is his without bonds. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only when he tramps the mountains alone, communing with nature, observing other insignificant creatures about him, to come and go as he will, does he awaken to his own short-lived presence on earth.
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From a long view of the history of mankind, seen from, say, ten thousand years from now, there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics. The American Civil War will pale into provincial insignificance in comparison with this important scientific event of the same decade.
Richard P. Feynman
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I learned at a very young age that music teaches you about life. When you're in the midst of improvisation, there is no yesterday and no tomorrow "" there is just the moment that you are in. In that beautiful moment, you experience your true insignificance to the rest of the universe. It is then, and only then, that you can experience your true significance.
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If humans did not manufacture some of their own to appear like better people, people would not aspire to be someone else. They would stop dreaming. And if people didn't dream, they would be awake to discover the wonderful misery of being. There are no singular great people. There is only a small percentage of people manufactured to look significant, for the purpose of creating the feeling of mass insignificance.
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If man merely sat back and thought about his impending termination, and his terrifying insignificance and aloneness in the cosmos, he would surely go mad, or succumb to a numbing sense of futility. Why, he might ask himself, should he bother to write a great symphony, or strive to make a living, or even to love another, when he is no more than a momentary microbe on a dust mote whirling through the unimaginable immensity of space? ...
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I have lost patience with the idea of an insignificant human being standing up above the rest of us-whether he is called Reverend or Doctor or Judge-and shouting at us all about this thing or that. As soon as someone starts to pontificate in this way, I am apt to cut him off or leave the room, or, if this can't be done gracefully, I simply arrange that sweet vapid smile on my face that was so useful during the trial but that so infuriates Dr. Cole. After all, I have already taken the measure of my own insignificance, and I survived.
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There's so much humanity in a love of trees, so much nostalgia for our first sense of wonder, so much power in just feeling our own insignificance when we are surrounded by nature...yes, that's it: just thinking about trees and their indifferent majesty and our love for them teaches us how ridiculous we are - vile parasites squirming on the surface of the earth - and at the same time how deserving of life we can be, when we can honor this beauty that owes us nothing.
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In a way, losing hope and losing importance are the same thing. It is that youthful vibrance, that eternal longing and believing, that makes youth so important-if you grow old and lose that without finding another way to be important, you will slip away, fall into insignificance, like one sheet of paper. You may be useful, but you will never stand out from the crowd. You cannot look at a piece of paper and say, "I remember you." You never can.
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Literature sort of makes your daily operation, your daily conduct, the management of your affairs in the society a bit more complex. And it puts what you do in perspective, and people don't like to see themselves or their activities in perspective. They don't feel quite comfortable with that. Nobody wants to acknowledge the insignificance of his life, and that is very often the net result of reading a poem.
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When human beings are regarded as moral beings, sex, instead of being enthroned upon the summit, administering upon rights and responsibilities, sinks into insignificance and nothingness. My doctrine then is, that whatever it is morally right for man to do, it is morally right for woman to do. Our duties originate, not from difference of sex, but from the diversity of our relations in life, the various gifts and talents committed to our care, and the different eras in which we live.
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Ever since the Reformation, the case of legislation confining Catholics had been constructed primarily to protect a nervously Protestant against what was assumed to be a fifth column in its midst... Ministers believedm with some justice, that Catholics retained an attachment to their exiled co-religionists, the princes of the House of Stuart. After the Battle of Culloden had confirmed Jacobitism's insignificance, however, government attitudes towards Catholicism began perceptibly and logically to relax.
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I am dominated by one thing, an irresistible, burning attraction towards the abstract. The expression of human feelings and the passions of man certainly interest me deeply, but I am less concerned with expressing the motions of the soul and mind than to render visible, so to speak, the inner flashes of intuition which have something divine in their apparent insignificance and reveal magic, even divine horizons, when they are transposed into the marvellous effects of pure plastic art.
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If I've learned anything in twenty-nine years, it's that every human being you see in the course of a day has a problem that's sucking up at least 70 percent of his or her radar. My gift - bad choice of words - is that I can look at you, him, her, them, whoever, and tell right away what is keeping them awake at night: money; feelings of insignificance; overwhelming boredom; evil children; job troubles; or perhaps death, in one of its many costumes, perched in the wings. What surprises me about humanity is that in the end such a narrow range of plights defines our moral lives.
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The discussion of the sexual problem is only a somewhat crude prelude to a far deeper question, and that is the question of the psychological relationship between the sexes. In comparison with this the other pales into insignificance, and with it we enter the real domain of woman. Woman's psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, the great binder and loosener, whereas from ancient times the ruling principle ascribed to man is Logos.
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Why do you love the woman you're in love with? Because she is. And that, after all, is God's own definition of Himself; I am that I am. The girl is who she is. Some of her isness spills over and impregnates the entire universe. Objects and events cease to be mere representations of classes and become their own uniqueness; cease to be illustrations of verbal abstractions and become fully concrete. Then you stop being in love, and the universe collapses, with an almost audible squeak of derision, into its normal insignificance.
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...boredom speaks the language of time, and it is to teach you the most valuable lesson in your life--...the lesson of your utter insignificance. It is valuable to you, as well as to those you are to rub shoulders with. 'You are finite,' time tells you in a voice of boredom, 'and whatever you do is, from my point of view, futile.' As music to your ears, this, of course, may not count; yet the sense of futility, of limited significance even of your best, most ardent actions is better than the illusion of their consequence and the attendant self-satisfaction.
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Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind. (Messenger and Advocate Oct 1934 pp 14-16)
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How good is it to remember one's insignificance: that of a man among billions of men, of an animal amid billions of animals; and one's abode, the earth, a little grain of sand in comparison with Sirius and others, and one's life span in comparison with billions on billions of ages. There is only one significance, you are a worker. The assignment is inscribed in your reason and heart and expressed clearly and comprehensibly by the best among the beings similar to you. The reward for doing the assignment is immediately within you. But what the significance of the assignment is or of its completion, that you are not given to know, nor do you need to know it. It is good enough as it is. What else could you desire?
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We are social animals. We like to feel a part of something of beauty and power that transcends our insignificance. It can be a religion, a political party, a ball club. Why not also Nature? I feel a strong identity with the world of living things. I was born into it; we all were. But we may not feel the ties unless we gain intimacy by seeing, feeling, smelling, touching and studying the natural world. Trying to live in harmony with the dictates of nature is probably as inspirational as living in harmony with the Koran or the Bible. Perhaps it is also a timely undertaking.
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If you look at your average contemporary person, the potential for tragedy is immense. The people and things we love and value are strewn across the globe. Any number of health disasters can befall you or them. The truth is depressing. We are going to die, most likely after illness; all our friends will likewise die; we are tiny insignificant dots on a tiny planet. Perhaps with the advent of broad intelligence and foresight comes the need for confabulation and self-deception to keep depression and its consequent lethargy at bay. There needs to be a basic denial of our finitude and insignificance in the larger scene. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah just to get out of bed in the morning.
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A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.
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The force that played havoc with the cortisol in my blood was the same force that helped my body recover; if I felt better one day and worse the next, it was unchanged. It chose no side. It gave the girl next to me in the hospital pneumonia; it also gave her white blood cells that would resist the infection. And the atoms in those cells, and the nuclei in those atoms, the same bits of carbon that were being spun into new planets in some corner of space without a name. My insignificance had become unspeakably beautiful to me. That unified force was a god too massive, too inhuman, to resist with the atheism in which I had been brought up. I became a zealot without a religion.
G. Willow Wilson
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The person with a secular mentality feels himself to be the center of the universe. Yet he is likely to suffer from a sense of meaninglessness and insignificance because he knows he's but one human among five billion others - all feeling themselves to be the center of things - scratching out an existence on the surface of a medium-sized planet circling a small star among countless stars in a galaxy lost among countless galaxies. The person with the sacred mentality, on the other hand, does not feel herself to be the center of the universe. She considers the Center to be elsewhere and other. Yet she is unlikely to feel lost or insignificant precisely because she draws her significance and meaning from her relationship, her connection, with that center, that Other.
M. Scott Peck
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