Lately I’ve read some interesting blogs pointing out just how insignificant we, as humans, are. And I’ve read others about just how meaningful life is. I guess opposites attract 😊
Frankly, I’m torn, because these thought experiments bring me back to another interrelated concept and that is “purpose.”
Just what purpose are we supposed to fulfill? Or, stated another way, why are we here?
Pretty esoteric concepts and I imagine there are as many answers as there are people on the planet. And speaking of our planetary existence, I just discovered that we humans represent only 0.01% of all of the biomass on Earth.
I suppose it’s not enough that we are mere specks of dust flying about the Universe on another speck of dust in a spiral galaxy that, itself, is just another speck among the bazillions of other galaxies out there.
And even all of this planetary and star matter is but a whiff of cosmic dust because the majority of space, according to the physicists, is occupied by dark matter (27%) and dark energy (68%). Only 5% of all of the matter in the entirety of existence is physical, visible matter.
So, I’m feeling a little less than just being short in stature today. Just what impact can my tiny speck have to be considered meaningful? Is it even measurable? And who gets to do the measuring?
Well I’ve just looked at one measuring stick and it’s not a pretty one.
In terms of our planet, while we only represent 0.01% of all of the biomass, we have managed to cause the extinction of 83% of all of the wild mammals on Earth and the extinction of 50% of all plant life.
To add a little more perspective to our physical dimensions, bacteria are more of a major life form than we humans, comprising 13% of everything. Plants represent 82% of all living matter, all sea life makes up a mere 1%, and all other creatures combined, including our measly 0.01%, make up just 4% of the world’s biomass.
Looking at mammals, 60% of all mammals on the planet are now composed of livestock, 36% are us and only the 4% of those remaining are wild animals. In the avian world, 70% of all birds are now comprised of poultry and only 30% are wild.
To provide some perspective on mass in terms of weight, viruses, those microscopic guys, have a combined weight that is 3 times that of humans. And so do worms. All fish combined weigh 12 times what the 7.6 billion people on the planet weigh, and fungi weigh 200 times that of us humans.
For representing only 0.01% of all of the biomass on Earth, we humans sure have altered the planet, and many would say we’ve put it on a certain path to complete destruction.
We’ve molded the planet into a department store of commodities to propagate our species at the expense of all others. And in the process, our mounting waste products threaten to extinguish all life as we know it.
In that sense, I suppose we are significant, but that’s a far cry from a having a “meaningful” existence.
But maybe we can’t measure worth in terms of our entire species’ impact on the planet, but only in terms of our individual selves. Just what are we as singularities?
Are we an occupation? Is our identity wrapped up in a societal position? Do we still positively contribute to the world even in the face of the destruction we wield as a group?
And I’ve pondered this more lately now that I’m retired. I no longer hold a social position. You might say I’m existing now without a societal identity. Am I contributing anything, or am I just a consumer wandering around in the giant human department store? Sometimes I feel that if I just have a destination, a place in mind to go explore, that I have purpose. But is that really true?
Tough questions. And even tougher may be defining what the world is, since it is a product of description by our minds and each of us may perceive the world as something completely different.
I suppose we can cast off the physical world entirely, write it off as being insignificant, and focus on making that difficult journey into the center of our souls. The soul is defined as the “immaterial essence” that animates life. It embodies our moral and emotional nature. Wouldn’t it be something if our souls were quantifiable? If we could calculate our “soulmass” as opposed to our biomass.
I wonder how the percentages would break down then.
Of course, now we must ask, “What is our soul’s purpose?” And again, I imagine there will be as many answers as there are people on the planet.
It’s been said that our soul purpose is to attain “self-realization.” To realize and embrace our divine nature. To recognize we are part and parcel of the divine Source. To awaken that particle of awareness in all of us that was given to us by the Ultimate. Great Mystery.
This may be true. But I can then ask, “What’s next?” What do we do with this awakening? Do we transcend our physical existence, “Mission Accomplished,” and return to the spiritual realm? Or is there more work to do on the physical plane in our awakened state? And what would that work be?
What if all 7.6 billion of us awakened to their divine nature? Would all of the ills plaguing us disappear? Would we remodel the physical world into one of sheer bliss and harmony?
There is an often-cited quote from the Buddha, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” This translation has been disputed and supposedly the words actually read: “All experiences are preceded by mind, having mind as their master created by mind.” Either way, following this guidance, with universal enlightenment we could definitely recreate the world.
Another quote said to be from the Buddha, that apparently is also in dispute, is: “One moment can change a day, one day can change a life, and one life can change the world.”*
Regardless of where this quote originated, it is a point well taken.
Maybe our soul purpose is simply to find that one moment.
*Please feel free to share your thoughts on our soul purpose.
Photo: You never know just what you’ll get when you point a camera directly at a light source. But I love how the camera captured this bit of cosmic dust that circles our planet and rules the tides 🙂
*I had originally said that I believed this second quote was from the Buddha and not in dispute, but Bodhipaksa was quick to call my attention to the fact that this could not be a quote by the Buddha. You should check out the page Fake Buddha Quotes for more insights.