Our entire mental machinery is perhaps the size of a melon with a 6 inch radius and our bodies about 6 feet tall. Consequently, most of our perspective is on things that big. 99% of all that we think, speak and do are geared to be on a similar scale. One may perhaps include things that are about 100 times as large and about 100 times as small and we’d cover 99.9% of everything that 99.9% of us see, do and hear 99.9% of our lives.
It is perhaps an evolutionary trait, a necessary(?) cognitive bias, that helps most creatures survive and even thrive by worrying about only the things that they influence and might get influenced by most of the time. The corollary to this is that the 0.1% times that things that are within the 0.1% size that do not draw their attention otherwise, do cross their path, they are stupefied, terrified and petrified by the effects of these aberrations. A Manhattan-sized meteor strike, wipes out dinosaurs. A nano-scale viral attack terrorizes humans more than any threat ever has.
With our melon sized brains and balloon sized intellects, we have assumed all along that human beings have had a tiny advantage. The fact that 0.1% of humans, unlike most other creatures (we know of), are constantly engaged in trying to unravel the mysteries of these 0.1% things beyond the scope of ordinary minds seems to suggest this. Think of the scientists and researchers who spend their lives in figuring these patterns, then codifying them and adding them to the collective knowledge-base of the human-kind. Think also of advances in information technology that are enabling more and more people to partake of this collective wisdom.
It seems that we have been, by design, blind to things, to the possibility of life and intelligence to exist at scales that do not match ours. Perhaps our definition of life itself is fairly limited. The thought is neither original nor novel. My attempt is to just add a few colors of imagination to this.
Imagine for a moment, if we were planet sized. We might perhaps define then, that the earth is a living being. That it breathes through a set of hair-like glands called trees. That deep inside, it has a round-ish hot organ with super-dense metallic composition. That the mountains are just its pimples. That its rivers, lakes, oceans and clouds are just its drapes- imagine a blue-ish fashion makeover if you may. That it can sense everything that happens on its skin. That it sometimes throws fits and has violent tremors. That sometimes, its pimples erupt to expel and equalize excessive fluids and pressure built up under its skin. We humans (as we actually exist) would then be like microorganisms. ALL of human activities put together would not go beyond the first few layers of its skin cells, its epidermis! Perhaps it might think of humans like we do about the numerous ticks and bugs that are always on our skin. Most of us spend our entire lives not even realizing that these creatures are always there! Our activities might be things that the earth tolerates mostly, or does not even think of normally, because we are just too small and insignificant for it! Perhaps it finds some of our activities amusing or ticklish. Our biggest space-rockets look no more than tiny hair follicles being shed into the nether space around it, with a momentary hot trail. Our biggest endeavors, even as huge as the Three-Gorges mega dam, would still look like a mere crease on Earth’s drape!
Now imagine if we were star sized. Then the planets would be like specks of dust. Humans? They may not even be significant. They are as good as nonexistent at that scale.
On the other end, imagine if we were molecule size. Then, nothing would make any sense beyond atomic and subatomic distances. Nothing else except variants in the atomic combinations would even seem to exist. It might be too much to expect to think of something as complex as a mammalian life form. Human beings, for instance, are an aggregation of over 2 × 10²⁵ molecules (says google). Just like we don’t in our most stretched discussions talk about anything beyond all the galaxies put together (100 billion stars or 10¹³, they say, that’s all). If each star were a molecule in some giant human being’s body, they would still only account for one in a hundred billion parts of its body!
So what’s the grand scheme of things? What’s the purpose of life and our existence? Does the earth worry about its purpose and existence just like we do? Does a molecule do? Does a virus do? Is it more intelligent or less intelligent than we are? Is the earth just a subatomic particle in another giant being’s body? All a part of a grand design or giant set of random coincidences? Who knows?
The only thing clear is that the realm of things that we know and understand is indeed very limited. We can be one among the 99.9% people who are very comfortable with this knowledge and couldn’t care less; about the 99.9% things that we know zilch about, or we can be the 0.1% that strives everyday to fill even 0.00001% of this gap through our lives before fading into oblivion. Either ways, only one thing is certain. Oblivion, eventually. Sinking to a state of higher entropy seems to be the fate of everything. Us included. The only takeaway is that perhaps it is better to lead a life that maximizes each moment it has than one that minimizes it. Till oblivion comes.