Last week we discussed, as it relates to the Planet Earth, the insignificance of man. This remains true in the abstract when compared to the universe which we still cannot even begin to understand or explain.
However, within our own little myopic world, we remain the most important thing ever, which, I submit, will be our ultimate undoing. Until then, we get to have fun pretending we matter.
To wit, I submit to you the idea that all of us face multiple moments in our lives in which one decision changes the course of history. Perhaps it is only our individual history, but to suggest that our personal decisions do not then resonate and alter the course of multiple lives would be naïve if not idiotic. Each of us, every time we make a decision, sets off a chain of events which ultimately affects dozens if not thousands of people, most of whom we have never even met.
One person who decides to drive drunk can alter dozens of lives in an instance when he crashes head on into a family of four, killing them all. He lives, of course (as they always do), and his life is forever altered. As is that of his family, friends, employers and co-workers, along with the attorney he has to hire and that attorney’s staff and their family and friends. Not to mention, of course, the four people he killed and the chain of individuals devastated by the carnage he has wrought. Family, friends, teachers, co-workers, and an endless list of people that family would have interacted with have their lives altered in the blink of an eye, by one decision made by one person in one fleeting moment.
While it is, in my opinion, of utmost importance that we constantly focus on how insignificant we are, we cannot also forget within our little fishbowl, the power that we have. You don’t have to be the President of the United States to change lives. Although, it is fun to posit how the world would be different if President Bush W had not invaded Iraq, or President Clinton had taken Sudan up on its offer to deliver us Osama Bin Laden in 1998.
How vastly different would the entire understanding of the universe as we know it be had former NFL coach and Chicago legend Mike Ditka chosen to run for an Illinois Senate seat in 2004, a seat he would have, by all accounts, won in a landslide? Had he done so, a little known state senator name Barack Obama would have never been elected to the United States Senate, and would have never arisen, as he did, at the rate he did and would certainly not have been elected president in 2008. Imagine how different the world would be today had we been emerging from a Hillary Clinton or John McCain presidency, all as a result of a former football player and coach’s decision that he “didn’t have time in his schedule,” to run for office, something Ditka to this day calls “The biggest mistake I’ve made.” http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/24061850/ditka-regrets-not-running-for-senate-obama-wouldnt-be-in-white-house
Too heady? What of the Adidas executive who, in 1984 made the call that college basketball player Michael Jordan, who WANTED to sign with his company, wasn’t worth the endorsement money and passed on what would become the greatest basketball player of modern times if not ever? In the blink of an eye, one man, the decision maker, chose to walk away from what would ultimately become tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars in revenue, as a result of one decision. Think of a world where “just do it,” doesn’t exist and instead we’re all walking around with Adidas paraphernalia…or, more personally, what of the hundreds, nay tens of thousands of lives altered by that one decision directly? All of the Adidas employees who would have become executives and rich beyond their wildest dreams, compared to all of the Nike employees who were promoted to the Jordan account and saw their lives go from upper-middle-class to rich-beyond my-wildest-dreams, all as the result of one decision. http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/03/a-former-adidas-employee-explains-how-adidas-passed-on-endorsing-michael-jordan-in-1984
For most of us, our decision will resonate only with dozens, and most like will not involve hundreds of billions of dollars in commerce. But that doesn’t make them any less relatively important the world we inhabit. Whether it’s deciding to drive drunk leading to that family being killed or seemingly far more basic and innocent and simple choices, they matter and they deserve our attention, retrospection and commitment. Having a child is an enormous enough decision as it is; having one with the wrong person will ruin (temporarily if not forever) three lives guaranteed. Not going to your daughter’s dance recital will potentially forever alter her view of you, yet may have grand rewards professionally. Is it worth it? At least choices like the latter are transparent and there for your taking. A choice where you can easily weigh between two very specific events and the causes and effects of each is far easier than making a blind decision and not knowing, or worse, caring, about the outcome as a result of your action or inaction.
We matter to the extent that we matter, and nothing more. Our choices and decisions define our path. And unless you’re some nut-job who believes that life is pre-ordained and already determined for each of us (Hello, we’re not in the second grade here, people, time to grow up), then harnessing the magnitude of potentially every single decision we make will serve us all better.