"It is vain to suppose, of course, that any human achievement, even the highest, could possibly be of a duration that would entitle it to the word “eternal.” No literary fame, for example, has so far lasted longer than 3,000 years—not even the blinking of the universe’s eyelid. But we humans must live on a human scale and measure things accordingly."
Isn't it nice of the universe to let us to live on human timescales? It can do its thing and we can do ours, and it doesn't try to prevent anything not universally 'significant' from happening.
Moreover, consider the kind of mathematical power laws that the social power of having a three kiloyear legacy creates. If you can do that, who else can? There's only so much time in a human life, and every moment you take up is one where someone else must be silent. The human scales of our accomplishments are imposed by the human scales of our resources. They're automatically balanced against each other.
It's not that we 'must' live on a human scale, it's that we can. We're allowed. The true alternative is not to be some eternal animus, the alternative is not to exist at all.
On the other hand, I think it worth contemplating chaos theory in this realm. Your efforts may have no obvious effects, but are you perhaps that one butterfly? While it makes a mockery of intention, even still...
"Significance and importance, however, are not natural qualities found inhering in objects or events. Only the appraising mind can impart such meaning."Well...probably. It's something I'm working on. Look at the question from the other direction; how could natural qualities impose correct and incorrect appraisals? Is there really no way?
If there is indeed no such way, then consequently it means the limitation of human resources are significant to human accomplishment and the vastness of the universe is utterly insignificant. Rather, that vastness is opportunity. A place to go to, rather than an immensity to fight.
Looking from the other direction, rare things are valuable. The immensity of the universe just makes human consciousness that much rarer by comparison...if the comparison is at all legitimate.
"As far as we know, we are the only creatures to demand of their existence a transcendent meaning. This can be supplied by various means, most commonly religious belief."This is something else I enjoy turning on its head. You want transcendent meaning. This object is in fact a feeling. This feeling can be caused by various means - so go get one. Worry about whether life in fact has a meaning after trying this.
"More than most, however, he has reason to know that politics can also give, or at any rate appear to give, transcendent meaning to life."If you try politics and it works, why question it? I happen to think it doesn't work, but it is entirely possible that this whole 'meaning' question is little but an inarticulate way of expressing the urge to join a group, similar to the 'part of something bigger' rhetoric.
"The satisfaction of work is not, or at least should not be, proportional to the amount of notice it receives in the world."It isn't. Fame can be validating but everyone knows about fads, and so that insecurity remains. Similarly, should you gain fame manipulatively or by a lie, then they aren't appreciating your work, they are appreciating an illusion, and that's not something you can hide from yourself.
Satisfaction comes when you can wholeheartedly get behind your own work, regardless of anyone else. With the one caveat of works directly upon the opinions of others.
Several things I want to quietly laud;
"Horowitz is unable to accept belief in a personal God, but wishes he could and, unlike many in his position, does not scorn those who do. He is decidedly not the village atheist."One day I hope to be able to explain why I applaud.
"Horowitz tackles these problems in an indirect and gentle fashion. When he talks of the meaning that his work gives to his life, he is not saying to all his readers “Go and do likewise,”"
"Though he embraced a doctrine that had done untold evil in the world, he himself was a gentle soul. His son writes in sorrow, not anger."
"he can now write about it calmly and without rancor."