Pathy!

Lately I’ve been thinking, and writing, about how nothing in the universe actually matters in any objective sense, and how given that our consciousness is only mud risen to reflect on mud, before becoming mud yet again, we ought not let stress consume us. These fundamental aspects of my belief system are my xanax, my zoloft, my therapist, and my couch. The crippling anxiety that regularly rides up my spine is alleviated, not suppressed but actually dispersed, through my reflection on, what I perceive to be, these truths.

A potential argument against such a viewpoint is that it could lead to apathy, and indeed it could. Why wouldn’t it? Life doesn’t matter, why strive to improve it? To this I can only offer the obvious alternative question; why not? Strive to improve it! March in the streets! Vote! Run for office! Write letters to the editor! Build a shelter! Dig a well! Go do something! You know what stops people from trying to make things better? Fear that they will fail, and it will all have been in vain. Good news everyone! It is all in vain! Not doing anything is all in vain! So, if nothing matters at all, you might as well shoot for the goddamn moon!

Besides, just because life doesn’t have any objective value doesn’t mean it can’t have subjective value. You’ll be dead soon enough, may as well get a little life in while you have the chance. This can be an argument for bungee jumping and skydiving and swimming with supreme court justices, but if you’re willing to take significant risks, then make them in the pursuit of bettering the fleeting and meaningless existences of your fellow earthlings. Life doesn’t matter, so get on your soap box on the corner and rally against the injustice of charging pregnant mother’s to have their baby in a hospital. Life doesn’t matter, so call your senator to express your horror at their lapses in intelligence. Life doesn’t matter, so knock on every door in your neighborhood to ask them for a dollar to send to starving families in Syria. Life doesn’t matter, so eat the rich, feed the poor, and buy as much Bornean rainforest as you can afford and donate it to an orangutan sanctuary. Why not? It might not work, it may make no difference at all, and you might have wasted your effort. But good news, eventually the sun will swallow the earth so nothing matters on a cosmic time frame anyway! You’re failures are just as irrelevant as your successes, but aren’t successes so much more fun?

Apathy is for the scared and weak, the people who foolishly believe things matters, and so refuse to try things. Things don’t matter,so try them all! Choose pathy!

Of Course There Is No Afterlife! Although…

IMG_2050I’m an atheist. I don’t think it’s the most interesting thing about me, it isn’t something I need tattooed on my forehead, I have other beliefs that would seem to annoy people who disagree with me far more. None of these things would have been true a decade ago, when I was beating people over the head with “The God Delusion”, but you live, learn, and become a determinist. That is a good book though, I should probably read it again.

At any rate, as an atheist, I find the idea of heaven and hell to be laughable. How convenient! Scared of death? Don’t worry! You can’t die, ever. But, if you follow my rules, you live forever in paradise, if you don’t though, just fyi, you burn in hell.

The whole idea of infinite existence is exhausting in either situation, who has the energy for that? If there is a heaven, it’d be punctuated life times in various enjoyable situations. It’d need to have context in order for the joy to be experienced though, otherwise you have the gambler in that Twilight Zone episode where he always wins vibe going on.

That scenario is actually in line with the machinations behind my own secret desire for life after death. This variety of the afterlife, essentially repetitions with variation of the kind of life I lead now seems possible without divine intervention, via two physically possible scenarios. One is that the universe contracts and expands repeatedly, and does so with slight variations. Infinite iterations of the universe lead to a great number of universes in which you exist in some form or another. Life after death!

Another is what is called the coke bottle theory, or I think it’s called that. I think Brian Greene called it that. At any rate, what it comes down to is that in a given area of space there will only be so much material. Too much and it’ll form a black hole, too little and it will disperse to other areas. Given that there can only be so much material, it can only take so many forms. Given enough space and time, those forms will repeat. So, some of those forms will include me sitting at this computer drinking instant coffee because the goddamn jug part of our french press keeps breaking and you can’t just buy the jug part you have to buy a whole new french press and now I’ve got multiple presses and no jugs. Someday I’ll die, but the universe will repeat that french press-less form of me at the computer and presto, life after death!

It’s baloney. One, the universe isn’t contracting, and shows no signs of ever doing so, and if it doesn’t contract it can’t expand. This is the only universe we get, so don’t litter! Even if it did, and in the coke bottle theory of the afterlife, the best you could hope for is that the universe construct an exact replica of yourself, right down to the genetic code. In order for that to be “you” though, you’d have to have some continuity of consciousness, that replication would have to somehow cause you to come online again, which it wouldn’t, because if it did then identical twins would be experiencing each other’s lives, and, as far as I know, they don’t.

So, no afterlife. Which is fine, really. You get to be alive! What crazy universe is this that the dirt stands up and looks at itself? Almost too good to be true. It also alleviates any and all concerns of alternative timelines. There are none. Every choice you’ve ever made is the only choice you will ever make in that exact situation, there is never going to be a do over. So get over it already!

Unless of course this is all just a video game, and maybe I’ve got another guy after this one!

Do Whatever You Want, You Have To Anyways.

The title of this piece is false advice. If you want to hurt people, don’t. If you want to hoard money for no reason while people starve to death, or work menial jobs forever to no happy end, don’t. However, if you want to move to the beach, do. If you want to open an ice cream stand, do. If you want to forget all of your debts and walk off into the woods, go for it.

Life is singular folks. Seems very unlikely that it happens again, at the very least not in the same way it is happening right now. Which means you’ve got one chance to do what you want in this world, it is this chance, it is today. Hate your job? Quit. Don’t like your neighbors? Move. Nothing gets better through inaction, no one is coming to save you. It is up to you.

I have even better news actually, it isn’t up to you. Everything you are ever going to do is set in stone. How do I know? I don’t, but I’m pretty sure. Here’s two pieces of evidence. One is just that this life doesn’t repeat itself, which means you go through it exactly once. Every time you have acted, responded, decided, it was the only time you will ever act in that particular situation. Which means questions of what you would do differently if you had the chance are irrelevant. You won’t. Furthermore, even if you did, if you were in the exact same situation again, with the exact same information, you would make the exact same choice. How do I know? Because in that situation with that information, you made that choice. Pretending you would magically make some other choice in that exact same situation is useless, as is pretending you might have been able to learn from the mistake of that choice before having made it and so chose otherwise. Spilt milk.

The other piece of evidence is just the very nature of the universe. It’s causal. X happens, causes y why every time. The pool ball analogy is a good one. If the cue ball hits the eight ball on the exact same table at the exact same speed and angle at the exact same positions, the eight ball will move the same way every time. This has been how things have happened since the beginning. Stars forming, planets, earthquakes, waves, clouds, rainbows, all just a reaction to the laws of nature and previous events. So it is with physical phenomena. You know what else is physical phenomena? Your thoughts, your decisions, your actions. Each is just a reaction to the laws of nature and previous events. Had toast this morning? That was determined by the big bang. Broke up with your boyfriend? Big bang did that. C’est la vie.

So, don’t worry about doing whatever you want, you’re going to. Don’t worry about mistakes you’ve made, you had no choice. Free will is an illusion. Since free will is an illusion and mistakes don’t matter, go ahead and do whatever you want. Of course you shouldn’t worry about doing whatever you want, you’re going to, which means you don’t have to worry about any mistakes you’ve ever made, because you had no choice, and since your mistakes don’t matter, you may as well do whatever you want. Of course you are going to do whatever you want, so don’t worry about possible mistakes, they were inevitable, because free will is an illusion, and since mistakes don’t matter, go ahead and do whatever you want. Why are you so focused on potential mistakes anyway? Maybe it’ll be awesome.