A sense of perspective

When I was younger, I would often climb a hill called The Wrekin near my home town. The walk would take an hour or two if I took the quieter roads and tracks leading to it, and then a further thirty minutes, depending on how fit I was feeling, to get to the top. It’s a relatively small hill, but if you stand on it and look south, you’d have to travel as far as Russia to find something as tall. What impresses me the most, apart from the fact that such a small hill can rise out of nowhere and stare over half of England and Europe, is that it was thrown out of an ancient volcano millions of years ago, and some of the rocks nearby pre-date life on Earth. So, despite its unassuming appearance, it’s got a tall story to tell.

From the top of one of the outcrops of hardened volcanic rock, I used to look across the landscape at the fir trees in the distance outside my parent’s house. From there, I could trace my whole world: the school, the playing fields, shops, friends’ and girlfriends’ houses. I could put nearly everything in my life into perspective. By the time I’d walked back down and gone home, I would feel tired but reinvigorated. All was at one again with the world.

These days, I live in a city, and it takes much longer to get out, so I do it much less often. To some extent, however, I don’t need to. After learning to practice mindfulness, I do the same thing by stretching my mind across the world. I look through my mind’s eye across the land and sea and the seven billion or so inhabitants that we share the Earth with. On such a scale, I remember how insignificant I really am. I pretty much disappear into nothingness.

The burial grounds around me in the city are full of people who thought themselves to be very important and who strived to make plans and achieve a high status in life. We all do that, and to some extent, it’s a good thing. However, we take nothing to the grave with us except the chemistry that made us and perhaps a few life lessons. Aside from a few people who have played a role in history, the work that most people who have lived, who did much to overcome their problems and be significant, is forgotten even by their own families just a few years after death.

As unique as I am, every day, I have to remind myself that I’m a reasonably insignificant being on this planet and essentially a simple component or element of the world I occupy, passing a little DNA along. Nothing more or less.