Tuesday, March 24, 2009

*I* Of Course Am Incredibly Important; It's Just You Lot That Are Cosmically Irrelevant

Recent reading has had me contemplating the human condition. One of the main themes of the book, and one of the continual themes of modern science since Copernicus, is the realization that we, humanity, are not special. We're just one species crawled up from the muck on one tiny speck orbiting an unremarkable star in a typical galaxy. We're not any sort of teleologically supreme zenith; just a bunch of fascinating, but often quite dumb and terribly short-lived, animals.

But many people resoundingly reject this conclusion. Perhaps it explains, for some, the attraction of fanatical religion and creationism and such: the need to repudiate the thought, sometimes violently, that humanity has no centrality to existence, that the universe doesn't give a damn about them. If they have no innate specialness, then life is meaningless and pointless. We're not special snowflakes that reality depends upon, but little more than purposeless amoebae flitting about the skin of reality.
From this is birthed wretched nihilism, social collapse, murder in the streets, cats lying with dogs, and the degeneration of humanity into cannibalistic beasts living in caves, or something. So if they yell and scream enough to fill the void, convince themselves and others that they tha bomb, it'll be willed so. (Which, ironically, presupposes again that human wishes amount to a hill of beans.) The notion that we don't have to have a grand meaning imprinted in the stars with a blinking neon to be good people or have happy lives doesn't seem to occur.

Maybe it's all about vanity, really. What's the use of a life that isn't of grand import? Why be in the chorus line with the trout and the worms and all those icky things, when you can be the lead of the cosmic drama? Like Linda Evangelista, they won't get out of bed in the morning for less than singular importance.

But isn't not being the center of the universe liberating in a way? What a weight, literally of all reality, it is off our shoulders. Isn't it freeing not to be "the measure of all things" and simply BE, no more or no less? How frightening it is to have some gravid metaphysical MEANING to just existing. What did you ever do to deserve such central import to the universe?
What if you don't measure up? It's daunting enough to want to please and make proud your parents and loved ones by meeting their expectations, let alone the whole cosmos. And, really, what does it matter? Does it really change anything in our lives one way or another?

BTW, am I just reinventing existentialism here? Should I take up Gauloise and fly to Rome to splash about the Trevi Fountain?


CB said...

I agree that there is something entirely liberating about the realization that life is meaningless. It's one of those ironic instances in which once you realize there is no greater meaning to life, you also realize that there is no greater meaning in the universe than life. Do you know what I mean? When nothing matters everything matters.

I love the fact that what I do doesn't matter, because it means that the biggest accomplishment of my life, whatever it may be, will be entirely equal to the smallest accomplish of my life, or, hell, even to the biggest mistake. :D It takes the pressure off. lol

I still hate the fact that some day I won't exist (again!), but it's a rare individual who's completely secure in that knowledge.

There are a whole host of sci-fi fantasies I'd willingly subject myself to in order to continue on in some form after my death, up to and including having my consciousness transferred into a computer. lolz

A lot of people say they wouldn't want to be immortal, but I seriously fucking would. Immortal up until the end of existence, given certain previsions. You know, I wouldn't particularly want to end up as a giant head in a jar ala the Face of Boe (Doctor Who FTW! lol), but I'd settle for it.

Maybe. :D

It's all a dream, anyway. My brain's going to shut down one day just like everyone's will.


Losing my mom hasn't changed the way I think about life and death much at all. I'm a little more open with my opinions, and I know I can emotionally survive just about anything now. But it certainly didn't magically turn me into a Christian, or provide me with any clear indication that there is a god. In fact, I'd say it's made me more certain in my belief that there is no afterlife. I've never felt my mom's presence anywhere, as people often claim they do when they lose a loved one. She's just gone.

One concept I take great comfort from is the notion that "all places are here, all times are now." As long as time exists (not time as the concept we've created, but just the perpetual chain of events itself), everything that has happened along that timeline exists. So, in 100 years when no one remembers me, I'll still be here at 2am on March 24, 2009, typing this post.

I've said it before and I probably say it every time I talk about anything religious, but the fact is that if I believe in anything with any certainty, it's in my own ability to be wrong. So if I'm going to wrong about the big stuff in life, I'd like it to be my spiritual beliefs, of lack thereof. :D

CB said...

Oh, and there's a quote by Wallace Stevens about how we perceive existence that I think you might like. It's in line, somewhat offhandedly, with the Jewish saying you mentioned previously, "When one person dies, a world dies.

Anyway, here it is:

"The world about us would be desolate except for the world within us."

If you really want to fuck with your head some more, get into epiphenomenalism. :D

Enough rambling from me.


Frank said...

I don't know that I'd say that "when nothing matters everything matters" so much that there's no THIS MATTERS MORE THAN ANYTHING FOR EVERYONE EVERYWHERE AND IS WHY YOU EXIST! I mean, deciding where to live matters more than picking your tie in the morning.

I don't now if I'd want to be immortal or not. It'd definitely have to immortality on my terms.

I totally believe in your ability to be wrong, too, Cindy, BTW. *LOL*

CB (Wan Kenobi) :P said...

deciding where to live matters more than picking your tie in the morning.

But it really doesn't, because nothing matters. When nothing is of importance, then in the end everything is of equal importance.

The point is that you can choose what matters to you. Maybe you care more about where you live vs. what tie you pick out, but the universe doesn't give a shit. :D

And who knows, in the grand scheme of infinite possibilities, there's someone out there who died for his choice of attire.

Living by that whole "social contract" dealio means that most of us have made a choice, at some point, often subconsciously as it's brainwashed into us from birth, that what matters to the majority matters to us. It works out nicely for getting murderers off the street, but it really fucks us over with minority rights. :P

Can you kind of see what I mean?

What matters is only what we make matter, because it's all just language and semantics after that.


slyder said...

My dear fellow, get over this angst and just accept that we are all cosmically irrelevant. You need to dive into some books. Perhaps the Wisdom books of the Bible, Sextus Empiricus, and Montaigne's Essays. We are meaningless to the cosmos. Fuck the cosmos! We know nothing of the cosmos. We can know NOTHING of the cosmos! Ignore it as if it did not exist! Don't ask questions for which there are no answers! That way lies madness.

We have meaning only to ourselves and to our fellow humans. If we have no purpose then we our ourselves and our fellow human beings to help each other get through this meaningless life. Mother Theresa discovered that God perhaps was not there after all! And still she continued her work comforting the dying. Nikos Kazanzakis writes that the one Terrible Truth is that "Even the One does not exist!" Accept that you will die and go to dust. Leave a legacy that will enable others to continue to help humans through this life. That is the best we can do or hope for.