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On The Aggregation of the Individual
Or how what we do by ourselves doesn't matter so much as what we do together
Close your eyes, have no fear
The monster's gone, he's on the run
Before you go to sleep, say a little prayer
Every day in every way, it's getting better and better
Before you cross the street, take my hand
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans
In some alternate universe, I’m on a plane to Brazil right now. But in this timeline, I’m staying in Mexico. I really wrestled with this decision. On the one hand, I’m just one person — how could my traveling really make things any worse than they already are? But then on the other hand, the exponential spread of the coronavirus has only been possible because a bunch of people like me have thought that exact same thing.
Pandemics and toilet paper shortages come about when people feel their individual actions don’t matter; but when the aggregate effects of everyone’s actions really add up. There’s a positive version of this phenomenon, too, though. If you ever wonder if you are making a difference by —
Donating to charities, volunteering, eating vegan, recycling, bicycling, teaching, writing, planting trees, buying only as much toilet paper as you need, being excellent to each other, or a million other things to make this world a better place today and tomorrow…
— The answer is: Yes, you are making a difference. Keep doing those things.
Just like the concept that “we overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can do in a year”, we also overestimate what we can do as individuals, and underestimate what we can do together.
** The photo translates to “Believe in yourself and everything will be possible.”