powers of ten

On Self and Finding Perspective

Cogito, ergo sum

Rene Descartes (translated as I think, therefore I am.)

The power of self is a truly powerful thing. For Descartes, it was a paradigm-shift, enabling him to rest his entire philosophy of the world on the core truth that he existed. Skepticism and doubt could challenge any other statement, but this statement rang true.

The idea of self is helpful for human beings. We have an innate sense of self-preservation, keeping us alive longer than perhaps we should. For many people, their self—filled with optimism and positive thinking—allows them to endure through trying times.

But the idea of self can also be harmful to individuals. When self turns into selfish behavior, it can do serious harm to loved ones who get in the way. An overinflated sense of self leads to egotism, conceit, and narcissism.

Often times the best remedy for self-centeredness is a helpful dose of perspective. A person needs to recognize that life is short, the world is big, and that we only get to play a small part in this grand cosmic play.

Powers of Ten, a video produced in 1977 by Charles and Ray Eames, is one of the best ways I know to provide perspective in one’s life. Using cutting-edge technology (at the time), this video shows how a human is both massive and insignificant, all at the same time.

Zooming away from the central figures, our planet, solar system, and galaxy don’t even register in the grand scale of the cosmos. And yet zooming in, we see that there is plenty of things happening within our bodies, without our full knowledge. In both instances, we can see that knowledge of our self is just one small part of the greater and grander things that are taking place on this cosmic stage.

Brandon Schmidt

I am Brandon Schmidt: writer, husband, father, brother, reader, and laugher.

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