Hey, guess what?! You’re gonna die!
But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Pretty much everybody does. Hell, even I will once my girlfriend guesses the combo to the gunsafe.
“Try farting under the covers now, fucker!”
So, yeah, we’re fucked. I’m sorry to start off on such a grim note, but I’m not really telling you anything you didn’t already know. Knowledge of our own demise is all part of the curse of intelligence.
It seems that there was an evolutionary trade off at some point, where the species that eventually became humans turned their back on the practically carefree life of comically clueless animals, and decided we’d someday probably want an iPod instead.
Well, we succeeded! Big time! Look at the world around you for Christ’s sake!
We built planes, sky scrapers and 24-hour sexotoriums, while our closest intellectual competitors have spent most their time flinging shit at each other and getting stuck in fishing nets. We’re super smart you guys! And we’re only getting smarter!
Well, most of us…
A haunting awareness of one’s own mortality isn’t humanity’s only curse, not by a long shot. Nope, we have another uniquely human flaw that works as a counterbalance. In fact I believe it to be our species’ defining trait:
Oh, we humans love us some bullshit. We practically thrive on it. This is our gift, our curse. Who are we? We’re Spider-man, y’know… If Spider-man didn’t actually get around to fighting crime because he’s too busy watching Simpsons re-runs.
Bullshit is at the heart of most things we consider to be normal human behaviour and for the most part it isn’t all that bad. We kinda need it to stay sane. We need a bullshit buffer to deflect some of the scariness of the real world, so we tell ourselves:
“I’m done smoking after I finish this pack, I mean it this time.”
“Just one more episode, then I’ll start my book report.”
or the classic;
“This lump on my asshole is probably nothing.”
Bullshit is comforting. It’s an old soiled blanket we’ve been swaddled in for so long that we can no longer smell the piss-soaked stench of reality. As nice as our dirty old blanket makes us feel, our need for security can bite us in the ass, especially when we breeze past important warning signs and continue on with our lives completely ignorant of these traps we’ve set for our future selves.
“Ha! I can’t wait to see my face when I get my credit card bill!”
A side-effect of my own personal anxieties is a fascination with time. Or our lack of it to be more precise. At the moment, we’re hurtling through space on a rock that has orbited a screaming mass of hell-fire for billions of years before our ancestors had even decided that legs were probably a good idea. Our species’ entire existence isn’t even a blip on time’s radar.
Zoom in to your life, you get… what? Possibly, 80 years? Maybe more now that medicine doesn’t involve so many leeches and ritual sacrifice? A tired old analysis of the human lifespan says that on average we spend 25 of those 80 years asleep. That leaves maybe 55 years to actually get down to the actual “life” part. Take away the years you’ve already lived and now there’s even less time!
Is that a scary thought? Well, judging by the way we’re content to live our lives, it probably isn’t that scary at all. We’re too far removed from our mortality to think of it as a realistic danger.
“I said, “THIS IS THE END!” Hey! Don’t ignore me, asshole!”
Time is like a fire we have lit under our asses, only we often forget that it’s there because the bullshit blanket is blocking the heat. Sure it’s helpful in the short term, but it isn’t going to stop that fire spreading through your entire house and quietly suffocating you while you’re sleep-jerking over that cute chick at the post office.
We don’t tend to think of our lives as wasted until we’re staring down the barrel of a gun, because we’ve tricked ourselves into thinking that we have unlimited tomorrows in which to start working toward our goals. Well, believe me, that gun is pointed at you right now, Spider-man. Make no mistake, your days are fucking numbered.
What I’m trying to get at is the fact that some of these lies we choose to tell ourselves can be incredibly harmful. Bullshit is a huge contributing factor in why people go on to live depressingly unfulfilled, stagnant lives. How many times in your life have you said something along the lines of, “I have plenty of time, I’ll get started on [insert personal goal here] later.”?
OK, so you’re gonna start working toward that goal tomorrow? If not tomorrow, the day after. Or the day after that. It’s cool you’ve got plenty of time, right? But what happens when all those tomorrows stack on top of each other and you’ve gone a whole year without making any progress?
“Aaannd… TWO! –Phew, better take a few days off; I don’t wanna peak too soon.”
It’s the same thing parents scold their children for; putting off their assignments over the summer and only starting work two days before going back to class. But chances are the parents have done the exact same thing on a much grander scale.
This is where identifying our own malicious bullshit becomes vital, because otherwise you’ll remain inactive until time is just about to run out. But by then – it’s already too late. If you want proof of this, just take a look at the poor old guys trying to recapture their lost youth with ridiculous sports cars they have to re-mortgage their homes to afford. If you believe your bullshit for long enough, eventually that poor old guy will be you.
It may not take the shape of a sports car, but you’ll certainly feel the cold hands of desperation gripping you tightly by the balls and forcing you to take action. Time will come knocking, and it will rip that blanket off of you mercilessly.
“So what’s the point in doing anything? You said yourself, our lives are nothing but an atom on the dick-hole of the universe. Why should I waste my time on goals when there’s an A-Team marathon starting in 15 minutes?”
Well, that’s true. On the scale of the universe our lives are pretty insignificant. But let’s look at this from a different perspective:
Fuck the universe.
The universe is an abusive asshole that doesn’t want you anyway! Do you know how hard it is for squishy little meat creatures like us to gain a survival foothold in the cold, dark void our planet floats around in? It’s no goddamn cakewalk, let me tell ya. Why’d ya think astronauts have to dress up like the freakin’ Michelin man whenever they need to step outside the shuttle and jettison their space turds into a moon crater?
Don’t tell me that thing doesn’t have a poop flap.
Why should you care where you rank on the universe’s list of “6 billion dipshit earthlings”? You are the one in charge of giving your life meaning, not some cold uncaring universe that is probably long-balling a planet killing meteor right at us as we speak.
Having an ambition, a goal, a sense of purpose — is a great way of raising a giant middle finger to the feckless, desolate, gaping vacuum we call home. Because whatever demotivating speech the universe might be giving, we’re too busy living to listen to it. We have no time for the background noise.
It’s not that the universe is a boring old shithole that doesn’t warrant further exploration, hell no! Some of the stuff nerds have discovered out there is utterly mind-blowing; but from a human emotional standpoint, you’re going to drive yourself crazy trying to justify your existence to an as of yet unfathomable, god-tier expanse.
Amazing, but still an asshole.
And if you can’t bring yourself to assign yourself some semblance of value, consider for a moment, the people around you.
Do you feel nothing when a loved one passes away? Is it meaningless to have someone who cares about you hold your hand and help you through a terminally shitty time? I’m not sure those people would be too pleased to learn that you consider them an expendable clump of meaningless atoms. Humans are social animals; we need each other. I guess if you wanted to be obnoxiously philosophical about it, you could say our purpose in life is each other. So yeah, in the grand scheme of things, we may not be all that important as far as we know. But in our little pocket of space, we’re a pretty big deal.
Thinking life is meaningless is just one out of a million flavours of self-deception we’ve crafted over the years, and like most of the others, we’ve designed it specifically to minimise effort. Specifically the kind of strenuous effort that leads toward happiness. This particular nutty brand makes it easy for us to say, “I could do something to pull myself out this rut, but there’s no point; after Gomorak the Inter-dimensional Cosmos-Fucker rises and consumes all of time and space, it’ll be like none of this ever existed.” This form of radical pessimism can be applied to any situation where you need to be helpfully discouraged from making an effort:
“Why should I quit smoking when I could get hit by a bus tomorrow?”
“There’s no point losing the weight, I’ll just put it all back on anyway.”
“Giving to charity is a waste of time, nothing ever gets fixed!”
So we don’t make time to practice that new skill; we don’t get healthy, we don’t learn how to dance, or code, or develop a new type of dildo plastic — the ability for us to say “One day…” is good enough, because in Bullshit’s twisted Jedi mind trick, you’re only life threateningly miserable for now. Soon, that “One day” will magically come and all our problems will be a thing of the past. This weird hybrid of pessimistic optimism is the most poisonous thought process we employ, because again, we’re allowing that cold hearted universe to fix our lives for us instead of actively taking steps of our own.
“But you’re just telling me to waste energy on a zero sum game! I’m not going to be suckered into doing something pointless! It’s not an excuse, it’s a reason!”
Well, OK. Fine.
But why does this “reason” always follow the path of least resistance? Why in some people does it always lead to inaction instead of energising us into thinking, “There’s nothing to lose; let’s do it anyway!”? The force that drives you to do nothing can also drive you to do something amazing. We just have to fight the powerful urge to remain at rest.
Sure, it might not work out exactly the way you planned, but there could be a lot of happiness to be had in trying. You’re not proving anything to anybody by stagnating your own life, you’re robbing yourself of the chance to have something we can’t be sure exists anywhere else in the entire cosmos.
We may not live forever, but that’s what makes life so valuable. We know what religion and science tell us about what happens in the end, but we can’t possibly know for sure. Why take a chance doing nothing? There may not be a reset button afterwards, or a palatial paradise of clouds where everyone has their wang out for some reason. All we know for certain is what we have in front of us right now, so do yourself a favour and make it count.
As far as meaningless existences go, it looks like we’ve landed a pretty sweet one.
Charlie is back, baby! And so is his Twitter. Follow @notthefirstone for words and shit…