I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it's true. After stumbling upon a YouTube video called "Timelapse of the Future: A Journey to the End of Time," and then accidentally watching all 30 minutes of it, I've come to the conclusion that life really is meaningless. The video's title speaks for itself -- it's essentially a half hour of diving deeper and deeper down the hole of existentialism to the point of being shattered by the insignificance of our lives. Like, such insignificance that it's almost silly to even talk about. The level of insignificance where you realize that even the people who seem the most significant -- the names we find in every textbook, the greatest athletes recognized across the globe, the most influential thinkers and inventors of all time -- are also entirely meaningless. Their names may live on in the history of human existence on Earth, but even that is a tiny speck of time that will end and fade into nothingness as the universe continues to expand infinitely without us. We are so deeply insignificant it's not even worth getting sad about. But, of course, being me, I did get sad about it. While also feeling comforted by it. I've been wavering between the relief of my nothingness and the weight of knowing how utterly inconsequential human life is, not just my own but all of humanity's. It's been a weird day for me, to say the least.
But, of course, still being me, I'm going to try to take a positive spin on this, one that even I don't fully believe but am desperately trying to grasp onto for the sake of my sanity. So let's think about it this way: If everything is meaningless, then your life is basically one big fiesta (I wasn't planning on calling it a fiesta, but I like it). If nothing we do really matters -- if history will be erased, if even the most monumental people and events will one day have nothing left to prove that they were ever really here, that they ever really happened -- then shouldn't we just be enjoying the heck out of our lives?! I know it's not that simple; I know we need to work and make money and take care of not-so-fun responsibilities. I know we can't all just quit our day jobs and go live the most adventurous, fulfilling life we can dream up. But I do often contemplate the way we simply go about our lives -- going to school, working, exercising, cleaning, cooking, doing all the mundane things -- when we are on this floating planet in a massive universe we know so little about, and yet we are just FINE carrying on like it doesn't matter that we have no idea what's really going on here. I realize that that is enough for some -- those people I greatly envy to whom the meaning of life, or lack thereof, does not bother them in the slightest. I can't even imagine the bliss of such an existence. If you're one of those people, I'm sorry for rocking the boat today. But I can't help but to feel deeply existential whenever I think about the way we go through our days doing "normal" things without stopping to consider that we don't actually know why we're here... We've somehow accepted that we're just chilling (or not chilling, if you're me) on a giant rock in an unfathomably expansive universe and how do you do your laundry and clean out the fridge when our whole entire existence is one big mystery?!
I have no answers to this one, only questions. How often does this thought cross your mind? Does it cross your mind at all? Will it start crossing your mind more frequently now that I've pointed it out? Are you still totally unbothered? I'd love to know. Personally, I think about this at least once a week. That doesn't seem like much to me, but even I get sucked into my everyday responsibilities and sometimes forget that we're all walking around ignoring the fact that we don't know why we're here. It's a pretty big question to ponder. But some things are too big and too incomprehensible that it's not worth losing sleep over. We'll probably never truly know the answers, so why dwell on it? (I'm still going to dwell on it, FYI.)
So here's the good news: Because nothing matters, we can do anything. I can do anything. In the end, no one will remember my existence. No one will remember yours, either (no offence! If it were up to me I'd say you, yes you, are very, very important. But I don't make the rules. I don't even understand the game!). My life won't be remembered, not even if I somehow become the most influential social justice leader of the 21st century. Not even if I write 20 best-selling books, each translated into 200 different languages. Not even if I'm a massive popstar with fans in every country. Nothing I do will ever truly matter in the grand scheme of the universe. But rather than thinking, 'what's the point of doing anything, then?', which was certainly my initial reaction, I'm going with this instead: If nothing matters, why wouldn't I do everything I want? Why wouldn't I live my life in a way that feels fulfilling and joyful to me? This human life is so rare, so transient, so briefly part of this immense universe. When you think of it that way, it is extraordinary that we are really here. That we are all experiencing this blimp of human existence so tiny that it is actually remarkable. It is actually a miracle. Not in a 'life is a miracle because God made us all to be special little snowflakes' way, but in the sense that if the entire stretch of human life really makes up such a microscopic speck of time, just 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of the timeline of the universe, to be exact, then how lucky are we to be a part of it? How lucky are we to get to share in this precious human experience?
When the universe reaches 21 million trillion trillion years in the future (wtf), the video that ruined my life informs us that "on the scale of a human lifetime, the universe has just emerged from the womb." EXCUSE ME?! The narrator, whom I have come to trust with my (meaningless) life, explains that "our universe gives life only a brief moment to shine," defining this time we are experiencing as "the universe's adolescence," which is a "window that doesn't stay open for long." Gulp. Existential crisis? Check! Feeling somehow amazed that we are among the humans that get to experience this fleeting, transitory breath of human life in our eternal and infinitely expanding universe? Checkkkk!
At 29 billion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years in the future (what the actual f*ck is that number?!), our spiritual leader, aka the video's narrator, tells us that "the universe continues to expand, driven by a mysterious force we don't yet understand." I can't decide if I love or hate the idea of a mysterious force we don't yet understand. I think I mostly hate it. Is that you, God? Have you really been out there all along, you cheeky son of a gun? Is there really an eternal, boundless, all-powerful being at the source of it all? Well, probably not. Like any other force we know of, this mysterious energy is likely some scientific phenomenon that somehow does things that I don't even have words to explain because I am not a scientist or even someone who understands science. All I know is that it is whack. It is all so WHACK that I don't even know what to do with myself. I have spent this whole day in a groggy slump, in and out of distracting activities and cry sessions that I've unsuccessfully tried to remedy with a long, contemplative shower, a counter-productive journal entry, and now this blog that I'm fumbling through as I try to process everything I saw in those 30 minutes. Those 30 minutes I naively waltzed into not knowing I would come out the other side forever changed, left bewildered in an indefinable state of numbness and existential dread sprinkled with gratitude and relief. But mostly numbness and existential dread. It's a lot to take in.
I promise my goal here isn't just to throw you all down a depressing hole of existentialism. I think the ephemerality of it all should remind us that the very lack of meaning in our lives can actually translate into meaning. When there's no cosmic, spiritual, grand purpose already set out for us, we get to create it ourselves. We get to decide how we want to build meaning in our lives. We don't have purpose, we don't find purpose, we create purpose. We are lucky enough to get to experience this minuscule burst of human life while it's here, in this short window that will one day close forever while the rest of the universe/galaxy/I DON'T KNOW HOW THIS WORKS dances on and evolves and expands and does all kinds of weird shit without us. When you look at it that way, wow is it a gift to have this life. Wow is it a miracle to live on this magical planet with mountains and oceans and lakes and rivers and volcanos and cliffs and forests. This planet where we build homes and relationships and meaning. Where we share pain and grief and sorrow and beauty and love and connection. Where we experience what it is to be human. Where we dwell in this complex system called the human body that allows us to experience life with such richness. This is so uniquely human. This is ours to experience.
So, yes; one day none of this will exist. One day, no matter how few or how many people know your name, it will not matter. No one will know that you or I were here. No one will know all that we lived through, big and small, good and bad. So while we are here, on our fleeting, floating rock in an infinite universe that will go on without us, we are in charge of creating a life that has value. We have to build meaning in our own lives because we are lucky enough to be here, to be able to. Because getting to be a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, a niece, a granddaughter, a cousin, a friend, a neighbour is so uniquely human. And because nothing matters, everything matters. What we do here matters. Not because it will be remembered forever, but because it won't. Because we are here. We are alive. We are experiencing this rare human form, and that should be enough to make us want to drink up every moment we have in this life. So there's just two things we should all do. Number one: don't be an asshole. Remember that everyone is just trying to make the most of their pointless lives here too, so just be a kind human. And number two: create your own 'why'. It can be anything, but it needs to be something. Otherwise, it really is all meaningless. I think we all need an inkling of purpose to survive this crazy thing called being a human. We all need a little 'why' to get us through our evanescent but spectacular lives.
P.S. Don't watch this video if you don't want to putter around like a zombie for an entire day feeling a deep, gaping emptiness in your soul -- oops, I mean chest... I don't know if souls are part of this existence. Happy Friday!