Faceless contributions

Sadness always strikes as I walk past the big stone monuments. The structures engraved with the names of people who traded their lives for our freedom in World War One and Two.

These people toiled in obscurity. Yes, some of their deeds won renown. But most of them remain unrecognised and ultimately, unknown. Our species has a short memory, and even momentous events lose their lustre and fade to black.

I often think about the faceless men and women who sacrificed their lives. Especially when I feel frustrated and angry. When I’m sat here wondering, “why isn’t my life easier?” When I’m lost in thought, asking “why can’t things go my way?”

Thinking about their struggle, their sacrifice, is not only humbling, but invigorating. Hundreds of thousands died to establish the conditions that allowed us to flourish. And instead of recognising the great opportunities available to us, we sit here, whining. Asking “when will we get our moment, our success?” All the things we think we’re entitled to.

Sort the lives of every human being who ever lived into a pyramid. The tip, the 0.0001%, is composed of “great” men and women. Individuals whose deeds, whether in service of good or evil, have left an irremovable stain on the development of the world and our historic record of it. 

The rest of the pyramid, the other 99.9999% is made up of the faceless. People whose words and actions  aren’t remembered. Aren’t celebrated. Aren’t even known about. That doesn’t mean they or what they did were of little importance. Just that their lives will remain unexamined and forgotten as time continues on.

This 99.9999%, of which you and I are probably a part of, toiled in obscurity. And there’s no shame in that. Because an individual is not judged by the renown his words and actions win. But by the contribution those words and actions provide to others.

Which is an important thing to keep in mind: presence of a thing is not the same as the recognition of it’s presence.