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Consciously or unconsciously I think we all seek after significance. I’m pretty confident that there is no one who doesn’t want their lives to count, to make an impact, to have some relevance. I think we all need to feel like we are making a difference and that we will leave behind some significant mark, some impact. Hopefully this will be positive and constructive and hopefully we will be missed (in the nicest way). I’m also pretty sure that for most of us, even the most ‘normal’ of us, being just a normal person is simply not enough. The big questions are with us all even if we don’t think they are. Directly or indirectly we all try to answer them; What is life all about? What is the meaning for my existence? What am I here for? Where am I going?

We are by no means alone in this. Perhaps one of the untruths about significance is that it is an individual thing. I think that significance is never in isolation. It is at least linear and very possibly multi-dimensional. Perhaps to really begin to understand this increases our potential to be significant.

Significance speaks of a sign, something that point somewhere, to someone or to something.

sig·nif·i·cance (13th century)

1 a : something that is conveyed as a meaning often obscurely or indirectly

b : the quality of conveying or implying

2 a : the quality of being important : moment

b : the quality of being statistically significant

synonymy see importance (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) 1993)

We may not all be important in terms of national, let alone international or global impact, but we all are important to at least one or two close to us. And in turn those whom we have been significant to or for will in turn extend that significance forward, to other people, other places, other ideas. There are no great people who have not in some way stood on the shoulders of some other person or situation in order to make their point.

For me, a sign points to something. A sign is not the thing it points to. This might sound obvious, but if we consider a sign board that points to a destination, for e.g., a sign on the highway that points to the city of Capetown, this sign board would probably also have markers or symbols indicating direction and possibly even distance to the city of Capetown. Now we would agree that the sign is not Capetown but merely points to the place called Capetown. The sign conveys the existence of an actual place yet it is not the place itself. Even in the centre of the city a sign declaring Capetown is not Capetown. Capetown is much more than the sign even though the sign might very well be accurate in its placement and context.

Perhaps in our overly self-centred, self-promoting, marketing dominant, modern societal systems we might tend to forget this? Are we aware that we are pointing away from ourselves even in our significance, pointing away and off, possibly into other time zones and spatial contexts, towards another destination that calls for change before it can be reached?

Significance is rarely if ever about us. In understanding this we might well become so much more significant in our part of the journey.




  1. perhaps a paradox, in that our significance is to be found in insignificance?


    please write on that ye old skeptic, for ‘meaning’ is ilusive …

  2. I think that everything is significant, even though we may doubt or deny it – even though all indicators may point otherwise at a given point in time.
    it is not insignificance that we are to seek, but significance that is not self-consumed or self-focused.
    perhaps we tend to seek not for significance only but for our own egotistical significance and therein we will find the problem?
    if we do not turn our backs on the reality that we are not ever alone but a small part of a greater journey and a greater, shared destination we will not only be significant but share in the full reality eventually, when things will no longer be a sign pointing towards something, but will culminate into the dwelling place where all signs ultimately point towards

  3. MMM, very thought provoking. I think that many may have confused significance with fame and/or fortune and found that fame did not actually bring them the significance they actually set out for. I like the illustration of the signboard.

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