The Mediocrity Principle. I came across this scientific notion while listening to this week’s This American Life radio show podcast. Its premise is that no place in the universe is more ‘special’ than another place. All places are scientifically the same, mediocrity abounds. This philosophical construct is used to argue the position that there may be life on other planets – i.e. that earth is not unique or special and that there exist millions of other planets like earth that could produce life.
I do not think anyone (or any planet) wants to think of ourselves as mediocre. Once I finished feeling the rejection of being told that I lived on a mediocre planet … I began to acclimate to the idea, with a twist. The concept that many places could be similar in their potential for life … makes sense. It is a hopeful idea. I extrapolated the concept to the varied and diverse places here in our planet, in our country … to the varied and diverse people in our world … to the varied and diverse moments in our days. And, I liked the idea … that each was held equally the possibility for ‘life’. Every place, person and moment holds the same potential.
But, I was still stuck on ‘mediocrity.’ Potential for ‘life’ is not mediocre at all, it is anything but ‘mediocrity’. Mediocre is ‘Meh’. The potential for life is ‘Wow.’
Torah this week tells us the story of the Sinai moment and the revelation of the Ten Commandments to the Israelites. (Get that Mel Brooks version of this moment out of your mind!) In the course of our story (whether one reads it literally or as myth), Sinai is a singularly special moment of encounter with the Divine. Seen through the lens of the Mediocrity Principle, it is not at all singular and limited, but varied and diverse.
The great 20th century rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, put it this way, “Sinai is an event that both happened once and for all and an event that happens all of the time. What God does happens both in time and in eternity.” Even though it may seem to us that this moment was at only one point on the storyline, such is not the true nature of Sinai or of our moments. Every moment is a potential moment for revelation, for connection to the holy … for life.
So, I humbly offer this spiritual spin on the Mediocrity Principle. For now, let’s call it the Divinity Principle. There is no place, no person and no moment that has any more divinity than the place you are in right now; the person with you whom you are interacting right now; or the moment you living right now …
So … forget the “Meh” and watch out for the ‘Wow.’