Writing tomorrow’s date, 14-1-14, at the top of a page, the thought occurred that at a minute and fourteen seconds after two o’clock tomorrow afternoon, it would be 14:01:14 on 14-01-14. Of course, one could repeat this exercise on the fourteenth day of every month this year, simply changing the minute to match the number of the month, but, even if the date were an entirely unique combination of numbers, what would it signify? Nothing at all. Yet a striving after significance seems to be at the heart of our culture.
When did it start? When did the tendency to look for some notion of significance in events, or places, or people begin to shape our thinking?
The search for significance is most evident in the mass media; the 24 hour rolling news services on television are peopled by presenters and correspondents intent on convincing us that every development in every trivial story is something demanding our full and undivided attention. The lack of anything to report is in itself a matter of significance that must be conveyed to viewers with the utmost gravitas, “I am standing here outside the building where the arrival we had anticipated has not taken place. I have here with me an expert on the subject who is going to explain why he believes this has not taken place”.
In his Ulysses and Us: The Art of Everyday Living, Declan Kiberd identifies the long tradition in the press of reporting on nothing, he writes
“In the everyday, everything is everyday,’ says Maurice Blanchot, ‘but in the newspaper everything is strange, sublime, abominable’. Newspapers, incapable of seizing the insignificance of the everyday, because their writers cannot deal with what is hidden rather than obvious, seize upon seemingly dramatic events, ‘replacing the nothing happens with the emptiness of a news item in which something happens'”.
Insignificance has come to be perceived in as something dull and boring, as something in which people will find no interest, yet our everyday experience tells as that the things which most capture our attention are not the things that fill our television screens, but the business of life around us. Stories from our friends, our workplace, our neighbourhood are hugely more important to us than anything on a news channel or the front page of a daily paper. Real stories of ordinary people are far more significant in our daily existence than the ersatz news with which we are bombarded.
Whatever date it is, it is today in which we are living and the only moment we can change is here and now, and, if that is the case, then, for us, there can be no person, no event, no place, no moment, more significant for us than now.