Brain Food #797: Be your drop
Welcome to 8 billion people
Thoughts of the day
The world population just reached 8 billion, a figure that is being shared with gloomy undertones, due to the added pressure that an increasing number of humans imposes on the planet. There are too many of us. We are like a drop in a sprawling ocean.
The phrase ‘a drop in the ocean’ refers to an amount so small that it can make no significant impact or difference. A drop, of course, is not a unit of measurement, but if you were curious, attempts to measure this suggest the sea contains roughly 27,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 drops.
The thought can create a sense of overwhelm, raising multiple existential questions about the meaning of life, the existence of originality, and our very purpose and impact.
The answer, paradoxically, may be found in the pursuit of individualism. Individualism is not about not participating in a community, preferring to be alone and isolated, or being driven by selfishness; it is, primarily, about the ability to think for oneself, to act according to oneself, and still possess a sense of self-worth in a world filled with others.
To have what Ralph Waldo Emerson called self-reliance:
“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
So the answer, perhaps, is to be your drop, and to remember that with the addition of every drop, even if there may be less room for originality, the surface area of our impact broadens.
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