I think that, quite often, we humans like to celebrate significance, and the fact that we ourselves are significant. We theorize about ideas like the butterfly effect, where every little thing that we do has a serious impact on someone or something in the future. We share stories of brief encounters with strangers that end up changing lives forever. George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life (Oh, how I love George Bailey) thinks his life has been a waste only to discover all of the lives that he has touched. In short, we like to think that what we do is important. And, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It isn’t necessarily an untruthful thing. But sometimes I think that it would also be good for us to celebrate our insignificance.
One thing that I have grown to like about the mountains is the fact that they are an excellent place to realize the power of insignificance. This past weekend, my housemate Debbie, Paige (a visiting volunteer), and I decided to try and find Pretty House. Pretty House is a hike that we had all heard about, but never been to. None of us knew how to get there, but there were some yellowed directions stuck to a bulletin board in the volunteer house.
So, we ventured out. The road took us past fallen trees sliding down hills (logging, logging, logging), homes with porches stacked full of wood, and the path to the Wind Caves (another interesting adventure to be had, but not on this occasion). We eventually ended up on a two-track, where we forded one creek that was traveling across the road with our van, only to meet another. At which point, we decided that (a) we were pretty sure that we had gone too far and (b) we weren’t so sure that we could ford this deeper creek so well, so we’d better turn around anyway. Turning around was tricky due to the fact that the road was only as wide as a car and was surrounded by woods, but Paige managed it with her sweet driving skills (I knew we brought her along for a good reason!). Luckily, after turning around, we discovered that we had in fact passed the unmarked Pretty House trail.
I had no idea what Pretty House was before I got there. I just knew that it was in nature and involved hiking, and that I was therefore game. Pretty House is actually a really neat rock formation, with a couple of caves for shelter, climbing opportunities, and a pretty nice view. I really liked it.
And one of the reasons that I really liked it was this: It was one of those places that makes me realize how insignificant I am.
Realizing your insignificance can be scary. I remember how much I disliked the mountains when I first came here. They just seemed kind of ominous and uninviting. And insignificance is like that. It’s really scary to sit back and think “Huh. In the whole scheme of things, I’m really tiny and unimportant.”
But at the same time, it’s really cool…and dare I say it? Refreshing!
I had one of these significant insignificant moments in the autumn at Cumberland Falls. It had been rainy and the Falls were at their most uproarious. I and some housemates also hiked back to Dogslaughter Falls, a long hike that gives ample opportunities for scrambling amongst gigantic rocks and realizing how tiny and unimportant you are. I really can’t help looking at things like this without thinking “Holy cow pies. This is amazing.”
It’s so interesting to think about how old these rocks that are oh-so-much-larger-than-me really are, and how many people oh-so-many-years-ago have walked in their shadows, and furthermore, how many people oh-so-many-years-from-now are going to be walking their shadows long after I’m gone.
Yes. There’s nothing like a huge piece of rock to make your realize your insignificance.
I’m human. I spend a lot of time thinking about my personal problems and what’s going on with me personally. Sometimes, my problems seem like a pretty big deal to me. But, in the whole scheme of things, they really aren’t. Like, AT ALL. The world is so much bigger than me and my little world. And God! God sees and hears and knows so much more than me.
I am so insignificant!
And that’s kind of, well, awesome.