What really got me off on this track is the word “insignificance.” Yester-day I went on a museum trip where my own insignificance came to mind – my incapability of being significant if you will. We were in Springfield, MA at a cluster of museums. In the first, an enormous collection of art and treasures accumulated by George Walter Vincent Smith (who made his fortune in building carriages and retired at the ripe old age of 35!), we saw paintings, cloisonné, Japanese warrior outfits along with a full collection of weaponry, and the jaded enclosed remains of a Chinese person from the Han dynasty which I believe ran from about 200 BC to 200 AD. (See lower left photo and center insert.) This woman, historians and archeologists conclude, was a servant in the royal family. The various pieces of jade are connected by copper and this tells them something of the status of the woman. Higher ranking individuals would have been buried in jade connected with gold, or with silver. Can you imagine being so significant that you are on display in your jade burial outfit – lasting for some 2000 years? It made me feel not very important.
From that museum I then went to the Science Museum and there watched a very informative video about dinosaurs. We were told that dinosaurs came into being some 225 million years ago. Are you too feeling less than significant now? What really grabbed our attention was this: if the history of the world from the dinosaurs forward were in a book, the book would be 225 pages long and mankind would come into the story only on the last page. Humbling.
Downstairs in that same museum was a display on Native Americans. The animals on display clearly were taxidermy, the people models (not human!). In one display of an Indian returning from the hunt with a wild turkey there was another Indian crouched, carving from a large stone. The large stone was soft and it was used for cutting out and then shaping stone bowls. This boulder was not “pretend” but rather (if I may) incarnate – it was a boulder that had been found in Wilbraham, MA and has been researched to be some 3300 years old. That makes the boulder older than my Chinese friend. Again, not feeling as though I mean much in the grand scheme of things.
Today as I mentioned, is the beginning of Lent. Samantha, a friend with whom I am connected on Face Book, shared a link to an idea from the Methodist church – 40 days of photographs through Lent. The idea is that the promoters will offer a word and a text each day to inspire a photograph – the plan is to encourage people to pay attention to the world around them. Today’s instruction was contained in these words: “Who am I?” While I do have a couple of creative bones in my body I had a hard time thinking of how to photograph this without photographing myself. And so I did. I took a picture of myself in the mirror – with care to hold the camera far enough away not to be included in the photo. I guess I have at least one creative bone because that care along with the magic of cropping, permitted the photo of me that you see here. But that’s only part of the assignment; the rest I think, is to answer the question of who I am.
I am someone who is rising up against these feelings of insignificance, recognizing that although my time on earth may be short, that my body will not last, that I will not be in some museum display thousands of years from now, that in spite of these things, I still have work to do. In my little sphere of the world I have a responsibility to show kindness, to forgive, to value others – and yes – even myself, and to share in the joys and sorrows of others. I am not “insignificant” – meaning not significant, lacking in importance, but rather I – and you, and you, and you –are/am “in-significance” meaning endowed with significance, living at its very core, and embodying value. We are each one, crucial to our world; it would not be the same without us.