5.06.2010

Existential angst hour, go!

It's Wednesday night. There’s a whole lot more I should be doing right now. There’re six days until the two finals on the same day. Ahh!

Writing is a temporarily comfortable distraction. Even though things are, at a minimum, okay overall, there’s something about the finality of it that leading up to it, really puts my insides into knots.

I don’t really know why but the last few years, exams have really stressed me out—I used to love them, at least not hate like everyone else. Last winter I realized in the week before finals that it’s an existential crisis the end of semesters put me in, ha. Instead of wallowing to them, I’ll write a few minutes of one down! [1700 words]



The TV is on in the background. The commercial for Robin Hood is on again. It’s Russel Crowe with the same director from Gladiator, perhaps just +1000 years. Hmm, that film is 10 years old already. I saw that film for the first time in a while on one of the HD channels not too long ago.

You know what else was 10 years ago? Parents’ divorce. No—I would be in grade 12 + 4 + 1—make that 11 years ago…now that’s an emotional mine field I don't feel like sailing.

The saddest thought in the world is realizing how one realizes that one’s parents are getting old and eventually they won’t be there anymore. These are literally among the most loved people in the world, yet we only see them past their prime as they decline at the same time as we rise. No, the saddest thought is how a child sees a parent getting old, only to turn around and about to find himself with a kid starting the same situation all over again. Over and over and over again.

I can remember 10 years ago pretty easily, I was in 7th grade. I can imagine another 10 years before. That was the year we moved to Wisconsin. I remember packing and arriving at the new house. It seemed pretty big; but I was pretty little. I can only remember a few things before that. It’s like that song: the years were short, the days were long.

Ten years from now, I will be 33. I wonder where I will be. I wonder if I’ll have a family by then. I hope I have a nice career. I hope I have a nice house in a nice area. I hope I don’t screw up.

I did laundry this evening and there was a young couple with a baby. They looked like they could have been from my town and in my high school class. Maybe that baby will remember growing up in present situation. Maybe that baby will grow up and imagine how things were a rough when he/she was little but his/her parents overcame it and they ended up all happy and comfortable. Maybe that will inspire that person. Maybe it will be a dark spot to that person. Maybe things won’t turn out well and they’ll never have good times.

The thing—it makes me feel a spectrum of feelings—is how the world is ever unfolding. Sure now feels like the best time ever and the moment all of civilization has been building to—striving to produce—yet we’ll just be a whole bunch more people’s history as well. Perhaps someone on the Fifth of May, 1910 wondered about what things would be like in one hundred years. Think of what laid in store for those people! What is waiting for us?

If that were me, I would totally short circuit stuff and invent or discover a whole bunch of completely obvious things. Einstein already did his thing, but they still didn’t have neutrons or Pluto or TV’s or transistors or DNA or even plate tectonics. Heck people won the Nobel Prize in the 60’s for discovering the static radios pick up comes from space and the big bang.

It’s a little bit frustrating how much stuff there must be out there that’s so obvious to people in 2110 that just escapes us.

That’s an awful silly and pointless thought.

It would be so easy to invent stuff if I could go back in time, but that’s not all that’s involved. Isn’t making little metal blocks with raised letters pretty obvious? Turns out that Europe didn’t have paper until the 1200’s anyway so it’s not like they were just sitting around with lots of paper and ink, getting hand cramps.

It’s kind of like living on the moon. I bet we could build cities up there right now if we wanted to, but we just don’t have any reason to. Perhaps the Earth will get crowded or they will discover something useful on the moon, then it will be economically worthwhile. That’s how North America was settled. It was Plymouth Rock for twenty years before people realized tobacco grows really well in Virginia and things took off.

You know what’s something really strange to think about, if the average life of people is 80 years, let’s say, and people are distributed evenly by age (which they’re not really), that means half of the people alive 40 years ago are now not living. Half the world of 1970 is now dead! By the same thought, 75% of 1950 is dead—roughly everyone who was older than 20 then.

Have you ever noticed how people kind of mention every once and a while that the WWII generation is rapidly fading. Is that special? People from every war die at some point—WWI is down to a handful if not completely gone. Is WWII particularly special? Now, people must have been sad when the French Revolution/Napoleon generation was checking out. It would be weird to be around to see historians doing to the stuff today what we do to stuff like the Civil War.

I wonder why I think about this stuff so much. One time when I was asking about old stuff, Grandma told me I was weird because I seem to think in years, but to me everything always is like maps and diagrams.

Here's one: someday there will be a last, or should I say final, human. Maybe it’ll be a slow, lonely wind-down in a space ship as the universe gets cold. Man, what would you do, look at art and listen to music while reading great works? Or it could be over in a sudden flash. Would someone/thing eventually find human fossils? Then they’ll put us on display in museums! How wrong they'd get it. We’ve certainly messed up the fossils for any future explorers. Note: when I go I want to be thrown into a peat bog. If not found, I’ll just end up as coal.

If we make it off Earth, then I think we’ll have a good chance to make it to much further in the future. Earth will be destroyed long before that, only 5 billion more years before the sun expands and absorbs the planet! (Otherwise it'll be 1000's of billions of years before the universe finally freezes.) That’s our fate! The matter in our bodies will return to the Earth, cycle through soil and a multitude of organisms before eventually ending up in the sun, where they will be blown out to make new planets. By the way, our sun is probably a third generation star seeing as there are lots of heavy elements around. They’re only made in stars.

Actually I read somewhere that the sun is slowly getting hotter and it’ll only be another billion years before it’s too hot for life here.

The weird thing is how short life is, by which I mean the state of being alive and aware. WTF is it anyway? We live for a while, do stuff, meet people, then get old and it’s curtains. It’s amazing how anything productive manages to get done in the first place. People spend life building up knowledge, wisdom, and expertise and it just gets wiped away. We spend a quarter of a lifetime on just getting ready to be productive!

What is life? How did I end up here, in such a good time, in such a good place? I could have easily born somewhere else or somewhen else. Why am I a member of a rich country and yet there are plenty of poor countries? That must suck for them and there isn’t a reason why. I got struck by lucky lightning.

On the other hand, I couldn’t have been born any other way. There’s a quote I heard I like. I think it’s by Christopher Hitchens that “we don’t have bodies, we are bodies.” My mind is what my brain does. I read a book about consciousness. It’s the ultimate reflex; your mind is your nervous system’s internal model of the world for testing actions. Everything else happened to spring forth from that! Civilization and everything else we do came from something like positioning two brain-mirrors facing each other!

It’s neat to think about how the same thing that happens in me also happens in you. Perhaps if I knew what you knew, I’d be you. But we don’t, so we aren’t. What if that’s the only major difference between people?

Even still, what is the purpose of striving to have the best job possible, just to have money and stuff and a house? Why am I special or deserving? People seem to be consumed in spending whole lives building up stuff and then when they die, it’s for naught.

Is having stuff the point of stuff—is stuff had for the sake of having? Even if I were to give up future stuff and try to share stuff as much as possible, I’m pretty sure people would just try to take as much as possible for themselves. Maybe that’s why things are the way they are—people will be people. It’s prisoner’s dilemma.

I’m not saying I want stuff. I remember there was a day, it was in fourth grade. I just woke up. It was winter time and I was looking at the ceiling, which looked extra white from the daylight reflected off the snow on the ground, and I realized that I just didn’t want anymore. I remember thinking that it should go down as a unique day. Perhaps that’s happened for other people as well.

I’m not sure what I want—hell, even in whether I want to be in grad school. From what I see around me, people seem to want, or know what to want, and have plans for how to achieve whatever it is. Then again, we can only ever piece together the actions of others.

It seems like in general people miss the big picture and take themselves way too seriously. Should I play along with life? Is everybody else only doing that?

I think most of all, the thing that ties all of this together is that I want to have done something worth remembering--perhaps something that'll be worthy of mention on the final space ship ride, or at least a mention in a future encyclopedia. But ultimately, that too is pointless. The entire world is a cascade of people falling forward one at a time, and yet all together.

Hour's up on my end. Thanks for reading; I for one, feel better.