We matter. Our actions matter. When we pretend like we don’t, and act like we don’t, the universe spins out of balance.

The most recent Fringe episode (3.10, “The Firefly“) illustrated this in a beautiful way, when the Observer told a despairing Walter:

“There are things that I know. But there are things that I do not. Various possible futures are happening simultaneously. I can tell you all of them, but I cannot tell you which one of them will come to pass. Because every action causes ripples – consequences both obvious and unforeseen. For instance, after I pulled you and Peter from the icy lake: later that summer, Peter caught a firefly. I could not have known he would do that or that because he did, a young girl three miles away would not. And so, later that night, she would continue looking, trying to find another one. I could not have known that when she did not come home, her father would go out looking for her, driving in the rain, so that when the traffic light turned red, his truck skidded through the intersection at Harvard Yard, killing a pedestrian.”

The third book of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, also comments on this apparent truth:

“Ananda,” Mrs. Murray said thoughtfully. “That rings some kind of bell.”
“It’s Sanskrit,” Charles Wallace said.
Meg asked, “Does it mean anything?”
“That joy in existence without which the universe will fall apart and collapse.”
“That’s a mighty big name for one dog to carry,” Mrs. Murray said.
“She’s a large dog, and it’s her name,” Charles Wallace responded.

I wonder if that isn’t the real reason we reject this notion that we intrinsically matter. Not because it’s hard to believe that small things can affect large things (it’s science, natch) but because we don’t like the thought that we’re responsible for anyone but ourselves.

Because holding the universe together is a mighty big responsibility for us to carry around.

And yet, it doesn’t matter how much we deny it.

The state of the world today proves our power, mis-wielded though it may be. It’s because of us, and us alone, that we’ve gotten to this point. We’re the Earth’s bane, when we should have been its protector. Our selfishness and pursuit of individual, temporary happiness over the well-being of others (and our world) has caused disaster after disaster. With our eyes turned inward, we’re able to ignore these disasters and go on igniting them, one long chain of cause-and-effect with a list of collateral damage that no single human mind can follow to its end.

And so the axis keeps on wobbling… while we keep repeating to ourselves: It doesn’t matter.