One of the hardest ideas for me to wrestle with is that there are 8 billion other people living in this world with the same depth of experience as me. They each have the same depth of feeling as me. Each person experiences quiet thoughts and has clever inside jokes with their friends.

I have no insight into their lives. I don’t know them. I don’t control them. I am insignificant.

There’s a self-aggrandizing power trip in planning to change the world. I utterly can’t do it. I have no control over the trends I care about. Any impact I make approaches zero.

It’s hard to believe there’s a God with the capability to relate personally with each human, the billions of them. If I am created in the image of God, it’s in the same way that a shadow is an image of the real object. Flat, monotone, and lacking. God must be magnificent.1

Jesus analogizes us to sheep, grape vines, and trees in an orchard. Each of these are raised in big groups. A single apple tree cannot alter the state of the food supply. But it can feed some people.

Each of us must accept that both the problem (the World) and the solution (God) exist on a different scale from us. Efforts to change “the way things are” on a grand scale are usually unrealistic and egotistical. A litmus test for whether your actions are motivated by love is whether you care about the individual people you affect. If you only care about moving the numbers, it’s not love.

This is not a call to dream small or to ignore aggregate effects of actions. Dream big, humbly and realistically! Also, statistics (“the numbers”) are incredibly effective tools to guide actions. But inability to substantially change statistics should not discourage us. Inability to change the life of the 99, but ability to alter the life of one person is simply the human condition. We’re fruit trees.

  1. God’s task of knowing each hair on everyone’s head becomes less understandable as science advances. Uncountable planets are spread across the universe. This vastness suggests that God has other children in his garden. By the numbers, aliens must exist…lots of them. And God knows each hair (or tentacle) on their heads too. Obviously, I’m guessing. I don’t know if God created multiple worlds with other creatures. But it would be very on-brand. 

Written on July 22, 2022