Tuesday, December 18, 2007

One in Six and a Half Billion

It came to my attention today that the world population was currently at more than six and a half billion. That is not just a sea, but an entire ocean of humanity.

Six and a half billion people, either corpulent or malnourished, exquisitely attired or destitutely ragged, all drawing life from the same earthly resources, carrying the same flesh on the same bones. I wonder how utterly trivial each of us would look in the eyes of some transcendent being whose view encompasses the billions of light years across the cosmos.

Even from a human perspective, the significance of an individual miserably shrinks in a crowd. A person receives far more attention in a village than in a big city. Hercule Poirot, my favorite fictional detective, once looked at a sunbathing crowd on a beach and remarked that they were nothing but meat. There is indeed something demeaning about a crowd, not to mention the phenomenon contemptuously termed "mass psychology" by social scientists, which sounds like it is sheep or cattle they are talking about.

One in six and a half billion, there is nothing like that to make one feel depressingly cheap.

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