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My Little Millisecond

The first stage of Under A Tree’s Ethical Citizens Fellowship asks its fellows to grapple with questions of identity, culture, and the human search for values across generations. One of our most talked about sessions forces the fellows to position themselves within a broader cosmic context where they are asked to reflect about the importance and weight of their existences when reconsidered from the near-infinite vastness of time and space.

Below, House of Dumezweni Fellow, Karen Cadet, reflects on what it means to take ourselves a bit less seriously without sacrificing our sense of duty, compassion, and commitment to do good with the little time we have:

Our universe is so vast and is made up of so many infinities.

In comparison we are barely significant.

Our life means absolutely nothing to the universe.

We only get a taste of life; out of 13.8 billion years of the universe’s existence each of us are only here for about 79 years.

In other words, if we were to crunch the universe’s life span in one year, we would barely have a millisecond.

To the universe, our time spent here is a millisecond.

So, why does my life matter?

Why does any of our lives matter?

To the universe, we are merely a speck of dust.

So, where does this leave me?

My existence doesn’t matter to the universe

But it matters to me.

I like to think my millisecond is all I have, all the universe has so graciously given to me.

So, why not make the most of it?

My time here is so little so I’m going to live my life to the fullest and do what makes me happy.

Why should I waste my time on negative people, things, and thoughts?

Why put my energy in things that don’t mean anything to me?

My time here is so precious, my little millisecond.

So as a mere speck of dust, I’m going to take my little millisecond and run with it.

The Race

On Monday afternoon, March 6, 2017, our UAT fellows and mentors took part in a very special activity that asked them to contemplate and discuss the role of privilege, power, and oppression in determining life opportunities in the U.S. The purpose of the event was neither to congratulate nor to shame individuals but to look critically at competing notions of fairness, meritocracy, inequity, and individual talent vs. societal dis/advantages.

For those participants who found themselves in an advantageous position in "the race," how might they work as allies to ensure that others just as capable might have similar chances to succeed. For those facing additional obstacles, how might they retain hope and strength when facing leaping these additional hurdles head on? For all of us, how could we work to remember that we will all inevitably find ourselves at the front and at the back, ahead and behind, held up and held back...and how can we continue to celebrate our own achievements while still realizing that nothing in this world is accomplished alone?

What resulted was an experience that will last a lifetime...

And the following evening, our fellows and mentors gathered again to continue the dialogue about how we can all work together to create a more just, fair, and equitable world for all people. Rather than feel defeated by the weight of history and the reality of unfairness, how can we make a difference in immediate and lasting ways?