Take a hard look at yourself – your complexity. You have millions of thoughts every day. You have likes and dislikes, fears, personality. In the world there are more than 7 billion other people just as significant as you. Each one has their own story, their own beliefs, and their own values, and those are only the humans who are alive today. 70 thousand years of people have come and gone too, just like you will. Millions of years before that, this very Earth was almost unrecognisable, with billions of other sentient organisms which have come and gone. Each and every one of these creatures had a personality like your pet dog. They had their own lives and their own feelings. If the 4.5 billion years Earth has existed was compressed into 24 hours, your life would last less than 2 milliseconds. Even the mightiest emperor ruled over but a stone.
When you realise how small you are in the grand scheme of things, by witnessing the power of nature, or your own mortality, or just through reading this article, a state of mind may be induced. You will realise that everything that you do which you think is a big deal, isn’t a big deal. Every decision you’ve ever made had fuck all significance. It is a strangely liberating feeling – an epiphany of freedom – that existentialists refer to as ‘the sublime’.
Humans can contemplate the imminence of death, and so we have an underlying fear – a fear which drives us to immortalise ourselves with monuments and legacies. Most of us forget how small we are in the grand scheme of things. Some play death with a lifelong project to make their name and voice heard forever. But it is those who stare death in the face and appreciate their own insignificance who can be truly happy. Ignorance will no longer drive their life, but knowledge of their own freedom will take its place.