A Speck Upon a Speck Upon a Speck

Periodically I need to remind myself of just how unimportant I am. A phrase I’ve heard recently, “We’re just a speck on a speck on a speck,” helps me consider my own insignificance.

Surely anyone contemplating the hugeness of the universe—and the actual size of it will probably forever remain a mystery—needs to acknowledge that we’re pretty negligible creatures in the overall scheme of things.

In comparison to the whole universe, we don’t even register as big as the tiniest of one of the millions of bacteria that inhabits our own bodies.

Of course most of us deep inside think we’re the center of the universe and that everything is about us.  We are sure that traffic jams and sibling rivalries and economic woes and world crises and appeals to help those world crises are all created in order just to complicate our own self-absorbed lives and to disturb the peace and ease to which surely we are all entitled.

On these days, naturally, when I am contemplating the size of the universe, it does dawn on me that said universe as a whole really doesn’t care if I can’t get a parking spot or if an appliance has broken or if someone unexpectedly has taken an intense dislike to me or if my heart breaks or I am getting sick or even if I get the *&%#@ (sorry–my frustration broke through momentarily) year-end reports demanded by the current bureaucracy finished on time.

And yet, somehow, those things really do matter. Yes, even those year end reports.

Let’s take plastic bags for example.  I decided some time ago that I would make my contribution to ecological health by carrying tote bags and never carrying out purchases in one of the ecologically death-bringing plastic bags.  So, I keep a supply of totes in the car.

Unfortunately, I  keep forgetting to bring them in with me when I shop.  So, my latest rule is that if I forget to bring in my tote bags, I must purchase additional ones at whatever store I am frequenting as a means of negative reinforcement.

Yes, I have a lot of tote bags.  All with different colors and names and logos.

In fact, I am envisioning the backseat and trunk of my car becoming so full of empty tote bags waiting to be toted in that whatever goods I tote back to the car will no longer have a place to sit. In fact, my car may become so full of tote bags that I myself will have no place to sit.

Now, I seemed to have wandered a bit from contemplating the size of the universe and my relative unimportance, haven’t I?

So, let’s try this:  what if my decision to forever forego plastic bags, no matter what their convenience (or inconvenience to my bank account) actually does matter to this person who is just a speck upon a speck on a speck?  What if the relative unimportance of this tiny speck’s decision means several hundred plastic bags a year never end up in a landfill or escape the landfill and choke a waterway or get through the waterway and choke a fish or get through the fish and disintegrate to a million tiny pieces of plastic which are ingested by tiny sea creatures which are ingested by larger sea creatures which are ingested by even larger ones which are ingested by humans and which eventually cause one human to get an incurable disease before said human ever lives fully to a potential that might help us better understand what it really means to live as a speck upon a speck upon a speck?

What if, indeed?

What if, as unimportant as I am, my actions make a difference for the entire universe?

What if you and I are important?  What if we really, really do matter?

Just a few questions for 2013.

9 thoughts on “A Speck Upon a Speck Upon a Speck

  1. From one speck to another. Everything leaves an impression on time space. An imprint. Forever. It matters. Yours is one of a good as can be speck. It matters and you matter. At the very least to another speck. Including myself.


  2. Ah, those pesky plastic bags. Last year at our church we started a program where members bring their plastic bags to church. They are recycled into woven sleeping mats that are handed out the homeless.


  3. I can be a dot, a period, at the end of a very long-winded sentence, and be immensely important in that I get to tell a writer when it’s time to shut up and move on, (and I’m not referring to Christy). As a comma, I can cause a pause in a cynical clause and give a reader the time to think…on his own. An exclamation point, a question mark, I can be all of these and be an integral part of the Universe of Thought.

    See, there are many, many ways to illustrate how big we are in our smallness, and the tote bag idea is a good one. It is a legitimate example of truth being all around us in one form or another, both in large ways and in minutia. How we react to these can determine whether we stay specks or not.

    I am running out of thoughts, so it’s time I find a “dot” to help me end this tiny written, miniscule but very important spot. Should I be my own dot, or get somebody else to do it?


  4. All I could hear in my head while reading this was Horton the Elephant the saying “even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person no matter how small.” It’s a wonderful Dr. Seuss book. Everyone does matter, and even for the tiniest things.


  5. what about the growing hole in the ozone and the green house gases created by the mills spinning the yarns, the looms weaving the material and the factories fabricating all those excess bags, not to mention the carbon footprint of the transportation of the totes to the store, the growing and harvesting of the cotton (I am assuming you are going ‘natural’…), pesticides used in growing the cotton, scarce water resources used in the cotton cultivation process.

    I just have a hard time with the “no plastic bags” conceit when our lifestyle is predicated on far more destructive things… and I realize it is just your point of illustration, but I often think we try to ‘do something to do something’ instead of ‘doing something important’ because we have taken the time to work out what we need to do and then commit to it.

    Austin is phasing out bags completely – either you bring yours, you buy some reusable ones or you put your groceries back in your basket and roll ’em out to your car… kinda like Costco right now…

    And (yes, I will get to the substance of your post) what if we matter… no matter what we choose? I offer as proof of this the fact that we are unconditionally loved by Abba/Yahweh/IAM…

    Happy, blessed, unpredictable New Year.


    1. Don, I know that even canvas bags have problems and implications. We humans don’t seem to know any more (assuming we once did) how to live in sustainable harmony with the larger world. And I think that comes from our mindset that the world revolves around us–that each of us is the center of the universe instead of one part of it that affects every other part. This may have something to do with the way we are rearing our children. I just don’t know.


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