I don’t know about you, but looking up into the sky on a clear night is enough to give me existential chills.
You’re not just looking up into a curtain of black. You’re looking into the eye of the universe. Stare for a while and you start to realize — on a deep, gut level — that the moon is a giant rock circling us in space. The sun is a violent, fusion-fueled ball of plasma and gas millions of miles away that destroyed the atmospheres of all of the inner planets (including Mars, which is farther away from it than we are) and would do the same to ours if we weren’t lucky enough to have a magnetic field that diverts the solar wind.
The cute little pinpricks of light you see out there are other giant, explosive, incredibly pissed-off balls of gas floating in an infinite void, most of which are far more impressive than our puny sun. And that smear of milky white through the sky? That’s the center of our own galaxy — a gigantic pinwheel circling a supermassive black hole like floating detritus around the vortex of a flushing toilet.
There’s a lot of crazy shit going on out there.
And in fact, the Earth could bite the dust at any time.
Comets. Asteroids. Apparently, there’s even a star nearby that may eventually go all black hole on us. When it does, it’ll shoot a jet of X-Men style radiation out of its poles, perpendicular to its accretion disc, directly at us. (The good news is that we’d never see it coming. We’d just suddenly be reduced to our constituent atoms.)
Even avoiding all of that, though, just buys us time. The Earth is not permanent. The sun is not permanent. The oldest stars alive today are not permanent. It will all end.
And in the middle of this story (because we’re the ones telling it), is us.
Here on our little blue planet. Here at this exact, tiny, special blink in time. Here, but only “here” in the way a beetle might be “there” on the sidewalk of Times Square during rush hour. Sure, the beetle can survive, but only for as long as it’s not in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Nobody’s out to get that beetle… but nobody’s watching where they’re stepping, either.
The city was there long before the beetle, and it’ll be there long after the beetle’s inevitable demise.
The city, always neutral, honestly doesn’t care one way or the other whether the beetle lives, dies, suffers, or thrives.
And you were worried that trying something new might make you look dumb or that your business might not make any money.
What is wrong with you?
The universe doesn’t care about you.
It can’t. It’s too big, with too much going on.
Maybe there’s a grand conductor, and maybe there’s not. I do happen to believe in God, or the Spirit of Life, or the Force for all I know, but regardless of belief or disbelief, one thing I know for certain is that no matter WHAT or WHO is out there, he or it doesn’t “care” if you define “care” in terms of life and death. Nobody is special. Nobody gets a pass.
Everything dies. Everything. You were born with a terminal disease, just like everything else that has ever existed. You, your lamp, the sun, and the Bee Gees all have that in common.
This, like the universe’s apathy, is neither good nor bad. It is simply a fact.
But this fact — the immutable, inevitable, impossibly obvious fact we will die as surely as we were born — is something we all deny for most of our lives. You’d think we’re never going to die, the way we cower and second-guess and fret over each little action. We act like what we do today will forever alter the flow of creation, of time, of space. Every move is vital. Each little event could upset the delicate balance. Everything is of paramount importance.
We can’t do things differently, because the system, however imperfect, works and is extremely delicate. We might upset it by thinking outside the box.
We have to weigh every decision, because a butterfly flapping its wings in Nova Scotia could cause a hurricane in Guam. Or, as Homer Simpson taught us, if you kill a mosquito in dinosaur times, Ned Flanders might become the unquestioned lord and master of the universe.
We can’t do something that might make us look ridiculous, because first impressions last forever.
We can’t try and fail, because then we’ll be ruined forever.
Think a scar (or a tattoo, for that matter) is permanent? It’s not. Your body was literally formed from stardust and will eventually return there.
The duration of a scar doesn’t even register on the big time line. In fact, I heard that God watches jewelry commercials and LOL’s when they say that diamonds are forever. It’s all a big joke up there. There’s a drinking game in Heaven, where angels do a shot every time humans invest “for the long term.”
What are you so terribly worried about?
You are here now. Eventually, you will be gone. You have but a nanosecond on the universal clock to do whatever it is you’re going to do. When that time is gone, it’s gone. Forever.
That means that although what you do doesn’t matter to the universe, it should matter one big deal to YOU.
In fact, it should matter to you more than it currently does. If you knew how small you are and how short a time you have to do what you can, you wouldn’t waste time watching five hours of TV a day. You wouldn’t waste time doing a job you hate. You wouldn’t waste the little time you have dealing with stupid people, feeling sorry for yourself, or being timid about the things you’d really like to do.
When I was 35 it dawned on me that it was not at all long before I’d be forty. And forty is REALLY OLD in the mind of a GIRL with the mentality and sense of humor of a teenager. I mean, you can make an argument for 30 being young despite the fact that the MTV crowd says different, but forty-something is what your grandmother was.
When I had this epiphany, a succession of uncomfortable and incredibly obvious realizations followed.
If I could turn 40, I could turn 50.
If I could turn 50, I could turn 60, 70, 80,90.
Once, I was a kid and everyone else was old. The tables will turn. NOW I AM the lady that kids look at and see as old. Me. ME!! ONLY IN MY 70th!! Me, who was once out cruising on Friday nights, staying up until dawn. Me, who thought I was indestructible, who thought I was forever. Turns out I was wrong. Turns out I was just one in 6.8 billion, and very much subject to the same laws of time and space as everyone else.
One day, if I’m very lucky, I’ll be a shriveled 100-year old lady with a cane. An old lady with a kid’s mind, wondering how on earth this could have happened.
Think about this. Now. I have!! HAPPY NEW YEAR 2012!!!