A few years ago, I was witness to a negative interaction between two family members, an older adult and a child. Later, in expressing feelings about the interaction, the older individual said something to the effect that the child needed to learn that they were not the center of the universe and that the universe didn’t revolve around them. I couldn’t help commenting at that point that in at least some ways, we are each at the center of our universe. The glare I received shut me up quickly, and I went on my way.
I wish I could better remember the interaction between the adult and the child. At this point, I only remember feeling that the older adult had overreacted to a child being a child. Seeing as I can’t remember what happened though, the adult may have been completely justified in their reaction and I am in no position to judge.
What has stuck in my mind though is the interaction between myself and this individual. Is it wrong for a person to feel that they are at the center of the universe and that it revolves around them? I mean, as far as I can tell, I am at the center. If the center is not here where I sit, then where is it? Can anyone point to a more accurate location? If I dug to the center of the Earth, would I be closer? What if I could handle the heat of the sun and make my way to its center? Or perhaps to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy? Is there anything, anywhere, that suggests that one place is better than any other for this center?
Or perhaps there really is a creator god somewhere. Would that god’s location be the center then? Where would that god live? Kolob? Or does it exist everywhere as some believe? In which case, I’m stuck with there being no clear center again.
Because we have no way to detect the farthest reaches of our universe, if any kind of end even exists, the universe might as well be infinite. As far as I can tell, we are each, in our own way, at the center of the universe. Is it wrong to think this way?
And as the center of my own universe, and not just someone that revolves around others, I feel it is okay to consider my own needs and wants. To be clear, I’m not saying that the desires of family members, communities, nations, etc. don’t matter. Of course they do. But they often matter the most because I matter. I’m happier when those around me are happier. Likewise, the wellbeing of my community and beyond influence me in meaningful ways. It is generally in my own best interest to want those around me to thrive as well.
I think that as a child there was so much emphasis placed on not being selfish and caring for others that spending time to think about myself and my own needs and wants felt like a sin. Self sacrifice was considered to be so noble, and I was only too good at it. For most of my life, I have sacrificed my own desires for the will of friends, family members, and the church. I’m not saying that some sacrifice isn’t appropriate at times, but it can go too far.
One question I almost never asked myself until after I left the church was “What do I really want?” Before that time, my life was always about what I should want instead of what I actually did want. The whims and desires of others superseded any possible needs of my own. And then, when I finally came to know that the church wasn’t really true, I felt so incredibly lost. My whole life up until that point had been based on the will of others and not myself.
So, now I have to ask myself what I want for my life and future. Even after seven years outside the church, it’s still a novel experience, and as a result, I make mistakes – a lot of them. But they’re my mistakes, and I own them. I just wish I could have made them earlier in life. I wish I could have recognized earlier on that my life was my own to do with whatever I wanted. No matter. I know this now.
I am at the center of the universe with regard to myself. I think that as long as I remember that every person is equally validated in considering themself at the center of the universe, this is not a problem. To me, the consequence of this viewpoint is that I feel more justified in valuing myself as a person that matters in the universe. I can have my own self-determined goals and pursue them at will to the best of my ability. This life that I’m experiencing is my own. I can attempt freely to make of it what I will.
Important to recognize is that each other person is also the center of their universe. We should not become offended if others make choices for themselves that are different from the choices we would have made in their shoes. For children, I think it’s important to teach them that actions have consequences, and we should let them know what those consequences are and, if we know, why they exist. But ultimately, we are each at the center of the universe. The universe revolves around us, and that’s okay.