Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Not to be a Debbie Downer but

Pick a number between 1 and 500.

In rare moments I become aware, deep in my bones or at least somewhere that is not in my brain, of a fundamental truth so overwhelmingly important that it really should derail me: the fact that we are meaningless; that there is this something called "existence" here floating around, and that I and everyone around me is constructed haphazardly and magnificently out of this something for no particular or general reason, an accident of time and fundamental forces and particles being pushed together/apart. This is a realization of the fact that we are not only nothing but in fact a nothing that is utterly crushed by itself, meaningless on a cosmological scale that dwarfs all of our daily actions and routines.

These moments sometimes come to me on the packed train in to work, cramped into a tiny space with far too many other people, all of us silently and conspicuously traveling together toward presumed lives we are leading. I want to ask the other people, right there on the subway car, whether they have considered on introspective nights the same questions I have, whether they have asked themselves to what end they find themselves here or anywhere, whether they are aware that they will eventually be utterly forgotten. We will be forgotten on both the cosmological scale, as a simple bizarre occurrence in a universe of matter that has no special place for such statistical anomalies; but we will also be forgotten by our own people, with the exception of a few chosen for remembrance past their lifetimes. (Consider how much you know about any one of your 64 great-great-great-great grandparents, and you’ll have an idea of whether any of your descendants will remember you 150-200 years from now.) I wonder if the other people on the train know this, whether any of them are, like I am, struggling with how we respond to and move beyond this understanding, how we can learn to be conscious of this and still reconcile our hopes and goals and bills to pay and I-need-to-pick-up-milk’s. How many of the train-riders have never considered it; how many are in denial; how many have found the personal answers that work for them?

I believe we can find some grand peace in accepting the universe in its simple being-ness (who could blame it?), and that Buddhist and other similar worldviews are all about tackling these issues. But still I have not left my day job and my hobbies, and still my mind wanders for large stretches away from these major issues. I want to teach myself to incorporate these thoughts into my waking daily interactions with the universe, but I’m not there yet. And that’s okay, for now.

I’m working my way toward it, and I know others are on parallel paths. So I guess I just want to say: hi! to the other little pockets of self-awareness out there. And to say that for now I take comfort in the perhaps-na├»ve thought that there is some power in saying “no!” to the infinite nothing, that we all still have the agency to say “I will continue to read my books and learn to draw and get to work on time, and if the universe wants to belittle me it can go f**k itself because I’m doing it anyway”, and maybe we can find truth in that simple decision to exist consciously. Or at least we can have some fun doing it.

Your number is 127.

I exist and would love to hear from ya.

Hakuna your tata,


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