Don’t laugh, but I recently had a near-death experience. No, I’m serious. I woke up or shall I say that I regained consciousness from a place I had never been before. It was like waking from sleep except that it felt like starting completely over. Consciousness, I mean. The consciousness that awoke was not a consciousness that picked up linearly from where the prior consciousness had left off like when you awake from a night’s sleep. No, this was awakening from complete darkness, non-existence. Sure, I had my memories from a few days before, so this wasn’t amnesia, but it was more like the man in the machine left his shift and a new controller had taken over when production had resumed. This new operator had access to all of the machine’s memories and other faculties, but not to the meta-faculties of the prior operator.
The whole experience left me thinking of our place in the universe. How fragile not only we are, but even how fragile “we” are. All it takes is a little bump on the noggin and it is entirely possible that “we” can no longer be “us”. How is that possible?
I grew up believing somewhere in my heart of hearts that I was or would be special. That one day the world would see this incredible being or that I would accomplish something truly magical. In other words, that I would become a statistical anomaly, which is a defining characteristic of those that become “great”. This belief was only reinforced when I became religious. If you don’t look too closely, you might even be forgiven for believing that God created EVERYTHING for you. Like, you are the very center of creation. Of course, not you, specifically, that would be incredibly arrogant of you to think that, but that honor is maybe reserved for a former or current leader of your particular brand of religion. Nonetheless, it is one or more humans who are the very culmination of the existence of everything else. This notwithstanding the fact that the human race makes up a very small percentage of the biomass on earth, let alone its percentage measured against the mass of the earth, the solar system, galaxy, cluster or universe. Don’t worry, the magical thinking goes, it’s all about you.
But the biggest fucking trip of the whole thing is that we can’t even be bothered with the here and now of this fantastical universe-centered existence. We’re off preparing or becoming. For another day. It’s always for some other time. Religiously speaking, this life isn’t even special – the special part comes next, after. This life isn’t even about this life, it’s a time to prepare for the next life, whether with a god or just the next step in a cycle. Well guess what? Tomorrow never comes. From a career perspective, spend all your time studying to become a great Person-Who-Does-X-For-A-Job and what’s left at the end? It’s just a guy who does X. Why all the sturm und drang over the label, over the destination? It’s not fucking about the end, and it never was and never will be. It’s not about the prize at the end. It’s not about eternity. Eternity never comes. It’s about being, not becoming, dummy.
And here is how I know: recently, I became what I always knew I’d become: “great”, a statistical anomaly. I experienced and survived an injury that not many people experience, statistically speaking, and from which not many people survive. I AM SPECIAL! I HAVE ARRIVED! But, to where? The fact of my arrival has not changed anything. I am still here, experiencing my plain-vanilla life, as a plain-vanilla guy, no magic powers.
Put aside all the religious and ontological shit. Fact is, “you” however you want to define it, is here and now, reading this garbage. When you’re done with this, you will have time today to do more stuff. Who cares why or how this is so? The only relevant question, given the fact of this vacuum of possibility, is what are you going to do to fill it? Questions of ultimate meaning, importance, purpose are interesting, but ultimately unanswerable and irrelevant. The fact is, you have awakened to this consciousness, to a game, the rules of which have been written long before your operator came online. You will do something. The only question is what? You can supply the why, and if not, there’s a long line of people willing to provide you a why, likely for a price.
In any event, my convalescing has brought me a great insight into the importance of a particular response to the question of what to do with our time: nothing. Stop planning, preparing – you’re already there; stop being opinionated – nobody gives a shit about your opinions anyway. Stop, look and listen. You are infinitely small – less than a speck of dust on a speck of dust measured against the vastness of visible existence in the universe. Our primeval ancestors had it right – gather with your friends and family and lounge around enjoying their company with nothing to do. Revel in the boredom. This is what we were born to do. This is greatness.