Given that reality is immense in comparison to myself, it is obvious that I myself, am not the most
important thing of all those things in existence. Therefore, what I consist of is not important — my
thoughts and ideas, such as love, happiness, etc. — everything that is personal to me. Having
excluded all of those personal things, what is it that is most important then, of all things in existence?
That is, in the processes of our making our choices in day-to-day living, what is it most reasonable to
see as taking precedence over everything else, having already established that it cannot be anything
of a personal nature?
Well, nothing is really, objectively important. Whether or not something is of importance is a value
judgement: Surely, what is personal to you is important to you? How can you live as if your decisions,
thoughts and ideas are simply of no value at all? You would simply have to give up, not bother,
collapse on the floor. But after a bit you'd probably find value in getting up and dusting yourself down
and getting on with things.
So, as far as immensity of reality is concerned, if you don't mind me saying, I agree that you are not
important. But surely you must judge yourself to be important insofar as it is you who has to live this
life. It is you who have to live with your decisions, and those close to you care about them too. And,
given that they are close to you, they probably think you are important to them.
Why should anything have precedence? Certainly there is nothing in reality which determines what
has precedence in value terms, although the natural environment seems quite important to all of us if
one of our values is survival.
You and I, Michael, and all the immensities of the universe you refer to, are possibly nothing other
than the hair on a flea's leg in some superdimension of which we cannot be cognisant. Okay: maybe
we're not; maybe these immensities are 'real' and there is truly nothing other than this one universe
we inhabit. Would it make any difference? Are there, in other words, scales of immensity meaningful
to us, and is it of any help to our self-perception whether we are a speck in the universe or a hair on a
fleas leg? Would it help if I told you that the hair on a flea's leg in our dimension is so enormous, that
to a microbe it would seem like the Himalayas? I think the answer is in the negative on all counts.
But let me give you one example where they do count. When you were conceived, your existence
began as 1 cell. But your grown body contains 6 billion of these; but although on the scale of 1 cell
this is just another prohibitive immensity, here you are, with 'thoughts and ideas, such as love and
happiness' etc. You wrote all this down and did not take note of what you wrote? Incredible! You
wrote down, 'I have thoughts and ideas' and it did not occur to you what an immense privilegeyou
enjoy! Fancy being endowed by the chance of being born with the gift of thought, the gift of love, the
gift of ideas — if atoms could speak, do you not think that they would call it grossly unfair that you, a
mere speck of mortal dust, should be so privileged, while they, the substance of the universe, are
mute and deaf and dumb and in fact does not even possess enough agency to move themselves, let
alone a thought!
All right, I exonerate you: after all, we humans do have an overall propensity to be jealous of beasts
of prey and lunge at every opportunity to show how clever we are at killing and destroying, while
taking the possession of a mind for granted. But this general lunacy does not invalidate my point. You
are Michael, you have thoughts and ideas, and one of these thoughts concerns the immensity of the
material structure of the universe and the 'puny' You which presumes to want love and happiness.
And you wrote all this without realising or thinking about the fact that a handful of humans on this
planet, scarcely 4 billion of them, possess minds, that is: self-conscious awareness; and this feature
of the universe is so unique and absolutely precious in the face of an immensity of DEAD MATTER,
that you felt intimidated rather than elated and grateful and filled with a sense of something so
extraordinary that the immensities out there' shrink to a cipher. A sense that the universe is a
mindless morgue of matter, which yet, in one remote little corner, began a process that for all you and
I know may also have begun in many other places at roughly the same time: a process I call
Value: mind stuff! Life!
No other reason whatever can be put up for considering the universe at all. That, potentially, it
contains values. That potentially it contains minds. That meanwhile, it actually contains values and
minds. And your's is one of them. Without your mind, and my mind, and everybody's thoughts,
dreams and ideas, the universe would not know itself.
Your statement 'it is obvious ', isn't at all that obvious. On the contrary Nietzsche would approved of
considering oneself most important in the universe (and at the same time staying humble). That
means believing in yourself, and defending like a lion your own points of view (without getting
unreasonable). In fact that's an answer to your question of what is most important.
At the same time such a question doesn't suit any use. Ask yourself what do you want to do with the
answer. I could say God, science, humanity, The United States, etc., but does that make one happy?