How Small We Are

Friday 26th August

Yoko Ono released an album (pretty awful) back in the late 60’s, it was called ‘Approximately Infinite Universe’.  A great title and pretty accurate too; the Universe is so vast that most of what we can see is billions of years old anyway, so nobody is really sure how big it might be, it is also expanding anyway.  The numbers are bewildering and from our tiny human perspective they might as well be infinite, or as Yoko says ‘Approximately Infinite’.  And even on this planet we are still incredibly small, not even the most populous species; insects are millions of times more than us, and thousands more species too.

And even on this planet which we pretend to rule, we are so small.  The fish in the sea, the birds in the air do not bow to our supremacy; they try to avoid us as particularly nasty predators but have no concept of our superiority.  Plants are entirely oblivious to our existence.  Compared to whales with their enormous bulk and freedom to roam we are peculiarly tethered to one place.  Compared to uncomplicated dogs and cats we are incredibly troubled and neurotic.  Compared to most creatures we have the most complex mating rituals – it is amazing that any of us ever actually get it together.  And yet we are conscious of conscious thought; we think that we think, and what is more we think that we are the only life-form that thinks.  Maybe because we are the only ones with what we understand as a complex language we feel so superior to everything else.  But I suspect that many many creatures think, just not in words.

An interesting fact; around the site of Chernobyl in the Ukraine (the site of the biggest ever nuclear disaster) there is a 20kilometre exclusion zone, for twenty years there have been only a very few humans allowed in.  Scientists are amazed at the proliferation of wild life now that there are no humans around, wild boar, wild cats and thousands of plants and animals no longer around only a few kilometers away.  If mankind does ever extinguish itself, after only a few hundred years there will be barely a trace of us, even the skyscrapers will slowly crumble and fall.  Of course we all hope that doesn’t happen – but it is not a bad thing to remind ourselves occasionally just how small and insignificant we are.