In the context of the universe, this thing that I call “me”
Is completely insignificant, and might as well not be.
I could disappear tomorrow, and the universe won’t care
Cos creation, for the most part, never knew that I was there.
In the context of the galaxy, it’s just about the same
Around three hundred billion stars that never heard my name
Between the stars and planets, there is mostly empty space
And all—well, nearly all—of it would never know my face.
In the context of the planet, it’s the same thing, more or less
Some seven billion people in a crowded, massive mess
I’ve encountered tens of thousands—so, not even one percent
If I disappeared tomorrow, few would wonder where I went.
In the context of my country, some three hundred million strong
You might think I’m slightly better known; alas, you would be wrong.
I’m anonymous, invisible, irrelevant, unknown
In the context of these numbers, I’m still pretty much alone.
In the context of my neighborhood, you’ll notice me at last
When I shovel out your driveway when the winter storm has passed
When I drive your kid to soccer, when your plans have gone awry
While I might not fix your problem, well, at least I’m going to try.
In the context of my family, or my teaching, or these blogs
I’m the one who captures spiders, or the one who walks the dogs
I’m the one the students come to when they want the best advice
I’m the one who wrote that thing you liked—well, maybe once or twice
I’m the one who read you stories as you went to bed at night
I’m the one who helped you move that couch (when others said they might)
I’m the one who hugged you, crying, when your world was torn apart
I’m the one who’ll always love you, to the last beat of my heart.
In the context of eternity, my life is but a blip
Just a fraction of a second, then away that life will slip
I know I’ve said this once before—I think I’ll take the chance:
Since the music plays so briefly… can you blame me if I dance?
An extraordinarily badly thought-out question just showed up on a Patheos blog that I am pretty certain I was once banned from. Frank Shaeffer asks the musical question “I have a nagging question for my atheist friends: if we’re nothing, why bother to convince us of our nothingness? Who cares?” From the title onward, either ignorance or willful misrepresentation abounds. Why do I argue with people like this? In part because they lie about me. In part because what they believe matters, in law, in culture, in schools. Because if I think “why bother?”, I have ceded to ignorance. Because I am a teacher, and a parent, and a member of the community, and I care.
I am nothing–or nearly so–only in some contexts. And I absolutely agree that I am nothing, and am an accident, and have no purpose… in those contexts. I don’t, as a rule, live my life in those contexts.
Some believers (not all, of course) have invented a God who is bigger than the universe, but still cares enough about them as individuals to have numbered the hairs on their heads. But the funny thing is, that God doesn’t matter to the majority of other people on this planet, let alone to the solar system, galaxy, or universe. That God is, in the grand scheme of things, as insignificant as I am.
And in the context of my own family, that God is considerably less significant than any of the fish in our aquarium, let alone the cats or dogs, let alone my family members. That god is less significant, in that context, than I am to the universe. At least I exist.