Daily Archives: May 16, 2019

Anti-Biography

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“Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”
~ Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in “Casablanca.”

I have written a short biography to introduce myself to my readers. But I want to make clear that the bio was meant as informative only—not to be taken as claiming any self-importance. I am mindful of how small both our lives and our thoughts are in the vastness of space and time. As I have written elsewhere on this blog,

Against [the] immense backdrop of speed, space, time and mystery shouldn’t we be humbled by our limitations and apparent insignificance? Who, other than the ignorant or delusional, would claim to know much of ultimate truth? I make no such claim; no one should.

Yet we live in a world were sports figures, movie stars, and the rich and famous have ghostwritten biographies asserting their importance. (By contrast, one of my intellectual heroes, David Hume, wrote a very brief biography titled “My Own Life.” It exudes humility despite the fact that he was one of the great thinkers in the history of Western civilization.)

We also live in a world where some of the worst people strongly believe in their own self-importance. I unequivocally disavow such claims. While I may be important to my wife or children, from sub specie aeternitatis I am insignificant.

Yet, I find this insight edifying rather than depressing. It helps us to care about values that transcend our frail, fleeting, fragmentary egos. In this way, we are enlarged rather than diminished. If our concerns are self-centered only, they will die with us. If our concerns transcend the bounds of our egos we attain a measure of immortality.

Moreover, by seeing ourselves not as individual atoms but as part of a process which, hopefully, progresses toward higher levels of being and consciousness, we can find real significance as links in this chain. So we are either part of a vast cosmic web—which may be meaningful—or we are essentially insignificant.

For we are (almost) nothing alone.