Ghandi’s quote about being the change you wish to see in the world is perhaps his best known. It sure seems to be his most repeated; appearing on t-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, etc. It is a great quote, to be sure. But, in my humble opinion, it’s not his best.
“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
There, that’s the one! I love this quote. It may be the best quote of the last century. It is a double-edged sword which can motivate and encourage as well as teach an essential truth of life. Let’s examine further my love of this quote…
Take two identical buckets: one empty and one filled with water. Put one drop of water into the empty bucket. Then dump the full bucket. The remnants of water left over from the emptied bucket are actually greater than the single drop-filled bucket. That’s how insignificant that one drop was.
Our lives are much like that one drop of water, insignificant when taken independently. However, when added to other drops (and I’ve met quite a few drips out there), it will fill the bucket. Hence, it’s important to add all those independent drops. If one drop is not added, that’s also insignificant. But, once again, taken in large quantities it all adds up.
What a way to motivate me through the monotony of my daily life. (Work life, that is. There’s never a dull moment with four active kids in the house.) My job is insignificant – I’m not saving lives, I’m merely selling baked goods. But it’s all part of the larger tapestry which can unravel as a whole should a few loose strands develop. Hence, I have significance in my insignificance. I love the poetry of the paradox.
Where the hard-truth edge of the sword comes is the reminder to our ever-strengthening ME-ME-ME culture that we are pretty insignificant on the grand scale. There are over six billion people in the world today. How many of them are going to be named in the history books students will read a century from now? Even some of the seemingly most-popular figures today may only get a few sentences in such a text. The libraries of books about celebrities, sports heroes, political figures, corporate barons and others may all be out-of-print (or digital text) by then. In the end, they are independently insignificant.
This is an especially important lesson in our internet society where so many people think that their opinions are of such importance they need to troll others with their “wisdom.” (If you’ve never read the comments section of an online article, I suggest not even starting. You’ll lose a lot of faith in humanity.) We seem to live in a more self-important society than ever before. Perhaps we all need to share Ghandi’s words of wisdom with more people and take them down a notch. Make them realize the insignificance of their inflated opinions which offer no real dialogue to contribute to the solutions of the problems of today and the future. Those are the insignificant dopes we don’t need. (I mean, drops, I must’ve had a typo there.)
When I look at my baby, I know that what I do is insignificant in this world. But, even though she calls me Mater, I mean the world to her, and she does to me. So, I must continue doing those insignificant things as an example for her and how to live her life. Who knows, perhaps her insignificant actions later will make the history books.