This is something we hear a lot, usually when we're depressed about that grade we got on our last Bio final or when we realize that that cute kid from our writing class is really never going to text us... Or that Johnny Depp is never going to fall in love a college student. It's usually something we hear from our best friends, roommates, or random people who just can't stand hearing us moan on and on and on about our stupid little problems any longer.
On these occasions, when perspective is so offensively forced into our brains- in the grand scheme of things, your biology grades don't matter, you little egocentrist- we sometimes just ignore it and push thoughts of our insignificance aside to concentrate on important things, like what we're going to have for dinner. (Eggo waffles... or a frozen burrito? Ah, life as a responsible young adult.)
But sometimes, just sometimes, we're obligated to contemplate our place in the world. And that's a scary train of thought. Sometimes it takes us where we don't want to go... Sometimes we realize just how little we are, compared to President Obama or Madeline Albright or even your successful third cousin who's a lawyer in Boston (-shudder- you know you're in the throes of self-hatred when you start to envy that third cousin).
And this is when relativity begins to become a negative thing. The bottom of the ladder's never fun.
But then there are times, too, when we've felt like we're on top of the world. Like the moment we graduated from high school, or the moment that one special person looked us in the eyes, or the moment we scored the last goal in a soccer game or wrote the last note of a song or held that last pose as the curtain fell. Relativity's not always horrible.
Because of all of this or in spite of it, I'd like to propose a new theory of relativity, one in which we can all hopefully take a bit of comfort. And that is that at any given moment, whatever sadness or annoyance or horror or happiness that we feel is in the same category of emotion that pretty much every other human has felt or will feel or is feeling. In other words, it's all universal.
Think about it. If you're having a bad day, well, President Obama had a bad day just like that three years ago. If you feel like breaking down and crying, well, Sarah Palin did that last week. Probably every day last week, if she's being realistic about her chances of being elected President. And, look, I'm not going to tell you that you're equal in happiness to these people, because you're not (you're probably happier than Sarah, or let's hope). But I will tell you that instead of focussing just on your own insignificance, it's perfectly all right to focus on everyone else's, too...
Long story short, if someone starts to tell you that it's all relative right after you've gone through something horrible (...I never understood how impressing upon me my own unimportance was meant to be comforting), you can say, No. It's not all relative. It's all universal.
Because it is all universal. That's something you can count on.