To be honest, I’m sick of being compared to stars, giant, faraway stars that have nothing to do with me. I’m referring to those cliché videos or pictures that make their social media rounds that, quite literally, compare the viewer to celestial bodies. There’s one that’s a size comparison, starting with Mercury and ending with UY Scuti, that’s typically captioned with “I am nothing.” Whatever happened to size not mattering? There’s another one that says “Don’t take things too seriously. Remember, you are here” and points to the location of the “solar system,” which is actually in the wrong spot. They’re almost as common as those “LIKE 4 JESUS, SCROLL FOR SATAN!” posts, and they really get on my nerves. Not only is our position in space irrelevant to human identity, but they send the wrong message about what gives all 7.3 billion of us value.
First of all, you are important. You’re a living human being, a conscious wonder of nature who is capable of thinking, loving, creating and feeling pain. Spare me the “dust in space-time” garbage; every person is capable of suffering, as it’s an inevitable life experience. Every person is also capable, either on their own or with others, of overcoming suffering. It’s why we treat the terminally ill even if it’d be more economic to let death win. It’s why even the Pentagon avoids war if they see that it is possible. It’s why we always talk people off the ledge. I understand that some of these posts go after the “I am everything” mindset- I doubt anyone really thinks that- but the “I am nothing” mindset is just as wrong, if not more so.
And there’s little wrong with being serious about something, even if that something involves only the person thinking about it. Your education at William Jewell, for example, should be taken very seriously because you’re most likely paying to go here. From a financial standpoint, there are much cheaper ways of having fun and “experiencing the world.” Even some daily activities demand a level of seriousness. The way one drives, for example, should be taken seriously; a car can turn into a weapon in the blink of an eye. That same car, however, can be used to see the world. Earth may be small compared to a lifeless gas giant, but a lot happens here, and we should never treat it like a for-completion assignment.
Being passionate about at least one thing—your spouse, a hobby, a cause, your beliefs—is better than being passionate about nothing. Those who go too far and elevate themselves above reality are always brought back down from the clouds by people just as fervent in life as they are. Not everyone has to be as spirited as a brand-new U.S. Marine—and that’s a good thing—but enthusiasm is what moves the world, should one desire to do so, and we should never discourage it in any way or form.
There’s also one fact in these posts that’s more important than the cheap existentialism slapped on top: things in this universe can be really, really big. We as people tend to like superlatives and claims about big things. Some of the largest known stars would engulf our orbit if they replaced the sun, a typical strand of DNA, one of many within a single person, is about the height of the human for whom it codes and a mechanical organ performance of John Cage’s “As Slow As Possible” is scheduled to end in 2640, for example. We like big, or really, really small facts because they showcase the beauty of the universe and the accomplishments of which humans are capable of, but they are nothing over which to lose self-value.
Of course, a post on social media can be something rather insignificant to get worked up about. The sharings of a dime-a-dozen Facebook page with a person’s name is about as insignificant as, ironically, the insignificance they preach. That doesn’t mean, however, that the information won’t spread and the mindset won’t remain. It also doesn’t make the post any less wrong.
It’s fine if you genuinely cower in humility whenever you read that a distant supernova is enormous. Just know that you don’t have to react that way and know that some people are tired of being told to do so. With the exception of a nearby one exploding, which is something to be serious about, the stars in no direct way affect the course of human events. You’d be better off scrolling past such a post, liking another cat video and feeling good about the life we have here on Earth. It may not be biggest planet, but it’s the one with the most abundant life, and that’s quite a meaningful thing.