Our arrival to this point of cosmic history deserves nothing short of the English word ‘miraculous.’ I find our journey incredibly fascinating and awe-inspiring, which is why I decided to dedicate these last two posts to it. The beautiful tale about how we got here has been permanently etched in my mind and never fails to humble me.
If you haven’t already, have a look at my previous post The Universe and You: A Visualized Guide to Your Origins and Insignificance. This current post assumes you’ve read it in full and considerably mulled over its content.To further develop the idea of cosmic insignificance, I’ve decided to conjure a more practical perspective on what to make of it all.
What I’ve come up with rests on only one thing. If you share my reverence for the universe, and find the cosmic calendar and cosmic timeline mind-blowing like I do, you’re pretty much already there. All I ask for is this: take a minute and truly accept, process, and fully internalize the above information about our improbable origins and recent emergence within the universe’s history. Embrace your inconsequentiality like a snug sweater and hop on board the Insignificance Train. Once you do, you’re ready to embrace what I would like to call the cosmic imperative to live better.
The Cosmic Imperative to Live Better
The ‘cosmic imperative to live better’ can be simply understood by splitting the phrase into its two parts. What I mean in the latter part, by ‘live better,’ is to think, to behave and to act in a more meaningful, enjoyable, and fulfilling manner. Essentially, it’s to have a better and more wholesome life. What I mean by ‘cosmic imperative’ is the motivation to achieve this—the call to action—inspired by the understanding of your tiny place in the universe.
How does it work? By positioning my miniscule, insignificant self within the context of the vastness of the universe—by visualizing myself as a mere flake of dandruff within the never-ending scalp of space—I become phenomenologically empowered. Empowered to behave authentically. To think profoundly. To be myself. I know who I am and where I stand in this world. Cosmic truths about my insignificance propel me, with an imperative, to live better.
For you see, someone guided by the cosmic imperative always has two indelible weapons in the endless unpredictable barrage of daily life: perspective and humility. Perspective comes from humbly accepting my infinitesimally small self in the universe’s unimaginably grand composition. Perspective arms me with the reassurance that the implications of my struggles aren’t as far-reaching as I think. I’m part of a massive universe that will continue to exist, regardless of my woes, happily swallowing my trivial problems with great indifference. Humility comes from realizing that I’m not quite that special; not quite that important; not quite that immortal. And neither are you. Humility endows me with the power to always act sensibly and humbly in the face of society that rewards the opposite.
The cosmic imperative encourages me to accept uncertainties and doubts that I encounter in life, urging me to relinquish my propensity to control things and desperately hold on to pleasant experiences. Everything beautiful must eventually decay and get swallowed up in the universe’s gaping maw. I contextualize my sorrows, act more humbly with triumphs, and embrace the precious time I have on this floating rock through space. The cosmic imperative arms me to come to better terms with life’s brutal blows, like my and all my loved ones’ eventual death. My gargantuan ego immediately shrinks to a docile grapefruit once I compare my existence relative to everything that has ever been, is, and will be. My nothingness becomes my everything.
The Broader Implications of the Cosmic Imperative to Live Better
The cosmic imperative is more than a personal call to action to live better. Far from it, there are sweeping, broader implications to it, which I’ll attempt to summarize below. They are far-reaching—some, tribal; some, societal; others, universal—yet all are largely positive. Don’t forget, however, that they are all contingent on you coming to the same positive conclusions I have about our insignificance in the universe. By being an adherent of the cosmic imperative, the following realities become more apparent:
Be a greater human being to yourself and to others. We went through too much grief, fought off too many predators, caused too much bloodshed to get to the point where we are today. Our ancestors died prematurely, unexpectedly, and barbarically by 21st century standards. The further you look back in our cosmic history, the stranger and more unlikely things were.
Honour your elders (yes, all of them, even the half sentient plankton you evolved from billions of years ago) by appreciating what you have in the present with utmost gratitude and reverence. Invest in yourself, fellow human being, in becoming a better person and a better member of your society. Find a greater cause to live for, and dedicate yourself to it. Find other, like-minded people to relate to about the profound and mystical mysteries of life, if you feel so inclined. Live a higher existence.
Nobody really knows what the fuck is going on. We’re continuously blown away by new scientific breakthroughs that completely undermine and redefine everything we thought we knew about how the world works. Einstein came along and blew physics up, proving that time and space were actually relative entities. Later, just when we thought we had everything figured out again, quantum theory came frolicking along, ready to cause a hailstorm. Quantum mechanics have confused the shit out of us ever since, giving serious merit to science-fiction type ideas like that we’re living in multiple universes that are coexisting this very moment.
We still cannot adequately answer why there is something (the universe) rather than nothing. I’m not sure if we ever will. At the most fundamental level, therefore, we have no idea what’s going on. So why pretend that you do? Personally, the only logical stance I see in spite of all the scientific and philosophic mystery is to stumble through life as best as I can, brimming with and encouraging in others attributes like curiosity and open-mindedness. I take a Camusian approach against life’s absurdity, and do my best to imagine Sisyphus as happy. I empower myself with the cosmic imperative like a sword and shield against the dragon of uncertainty, embracing the battle against the unknowns in life. And by the way, on that note…
Embrace life’s absurdity. We take so many absurd assumptions at face value, probably for the sake of our mental health. If you adopt an absurdist perspective, you’ll quickly realize how utterly ridiculous most of what we do is. Take, for example, a hedge fund manager at his computer desk, powering through Excel sheets. Totally normal, right? Not exactly. Mr. Dolla Bills is wearing a strip of delicate material tied in a particularly suffocating knot, around a mysteriously firm shirt collar, in a noose-like shape. His job involves shifting around numerical, intangible forms of exchange that humans made up, from one invisible source to another. Half a tree was cut, waxed, coloured and shipped on a boat from Brazil to form the desk his can of dead sardines jammed into an aluminum can are resting on. You get the point.
I occasionally practice the above exercise, by mentally reducing situations I find myself in into more absurd ones. The exercise of ‘absurdifying’ real life situations works symbiotically with the cosmic imperative, since at the very core of every ‘absurdification’ of life, lies the core fact that we’re all a bunch of sentient apes floating on a space rock. Framing life in this light allows me to confront the ridiculousness of life and all of life’s forces, effectively shattering my predisposition to overinflate the seriousness of a situation. Life’s lucid grip on my psyche succumbs to the introduction of an absurdist reinterpretation of the world, reinforced by a factual knowledge about how cosmically insane and improbable everything is.
Fear and insecurity probably doesn’t belong in your life. You’re the result of billions of years of evolution, countless chance occurrences and incomprehensible complexity. Act like it. Does fear really have a place in your life? Fear to change your circumstances? Fear to address your shortcomings? Fear of change? Ask yourself: are your fears truly insurmountable? Marie Curie doesn’t think so:
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.” –Marie Curie
Spot on, Ms. Curie. By pondering the vastness of the cosmos, and your infinitesimal place within it, how can you possibly be inhibited by insecurities, qualms and fears? Fears are often fuelled by an aversion to the unknown, imaginary projections about the future, or a bad previous experience. Think about it though—and I mean truly think about it—does your momentary anxiety really have a home within the sphere of billions of galaxies in outer space? Does it really deserve to have that much of an impact on your life, that much attention in your thoughts, and that much power over your actions, when your finite life comes closer and closer to slipping away? This should be nothing new: most fears, when broken through, are opportunities for you to grow and become a greater person. And just as the universe was the mysterious force that installed whatever obstacles in your life, the universe will also be the mysterious force to reward you for overcoming them.
Racism, sexism, jingoism, and whatever other ‘isms’ all suddenly start to sound very very stupid. Any clannish or hateful philosophy becomes absolutely insane, when placed under the inspective lens of the cosmic imperative. Humour me, are you really going to discriminate against another human being based on the arbitrary evolution of plate tectonics millions of years ago, the arbitrary colonization of countries thousands of years ago and the arbitrary formation of geopolitical borders hundreds of years ago? The cosmic imperative begs us to be more accepting and compassionate to other living beings. Secular, tolerant and open-minded views all start making much more intuitive sense, inviting a more sustainable approach to sharing and inhabiting the only planet we’ve ever known.
Bob Marley was right. Seeing as we all come from the same source, Marley’s instantly-recognizable catchphrase, ‘one love’ doesn’t sound so idealistic after all. One Love is essentially a mantra that calls to acknowledge the interconnectedness we all share with other human beings and the universe. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s exactly what I was getting at above; basically, it’s a watered-down version of the cosmic imperative.
This ‘Oneness’ with all human beings and with the universe is said to be one of the greatest sensations achievable by those who’ve discovered it. Many get there by meditation, some through psychedelic drugs, others through near-death experiences. And a select few others by listening to the timeless reggae music created by one particular dreadlocked, Jamaican musician.
The stakes for your problems are lower than you think. Your problems are not as significant as you would have yourself believe. The minor, non-life-threatening ones, anyway. Think about your latest ailment, whatever it is, and ask yourself: what do you REALLY stand to lose within the greater context of your place in the universe? You will likely forget about it years from; hell, you will likely be forgotten a few generations from now. Your problems instantly become less pressing, less debilitating once you begin viewing them from a grander perspective. You can detach yourself from the severity of whatever ails you by visualising how truly little space these problems occupy within the entire landscape of cosmos.
You shouldn’t try and resist nature’s course. Internalizing our cosmic history grants us a greater appreciation for the power and historical influence of Mother Nature on our present-development. If we accept that we originated billions of years ago and invisible, natural forces got us to where we are today, isn’t it reasonable to accept that these forces have in the process crafted some ‘best-practices’ that we should follow? Don’t fight the current of 14.8 billion years of existence and think you know better than the universe. You probably don’t. Trust gut-feelings, instincts and intuition about what ‘feels’ right.
“I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind” – Albert Einstein
You should probably do your utmost to live as you want to. If you truly value the one precious life you’ve been given, arising from an incalculably improbable history, why wouldn’t you do everything humanly possible to live a life true to yourself? Be true to yourself, true to others, and authentic in your desires. Remember: ideas of culture, prestige and success, by popular definition, are entirely invented human concepts; they all quickly start to melt away once you give the cosmic imperative any amount of credence. By all means, align yourself within the markers of a life well-lived by societal standards if they serve you—but if they don’t, as I know they don’t for a vast majority of people, please try to remember that adherence to these fictitious standards is entirely voluntary and its within your grasp to think differently. Aim for a life of contentedness, peace-of-mind and meaning, independent of the status quo. You are in charge of how you interpret your life, my beloved cosmic traveller.
The Gift of Insignificance
To some people, the cosmic imperative can be absolutely frightening. Approaching the facts I presented at the beginning of the article with a callous perspective can easily lead to neurotic conclusions that life is random and vacuous, that we are here for no reason and to sit and do nothing is the logical course of action. Insignificance, approached with a negative mentality, can lead to solipsism, nihilism, depression, and other impoverished philosophies of existence, devoid of meaning and satiety. Most of all, it can be outright scary to battle with the idea that we’re all out here, slowly floating through space, figuring things out largely by improvisation, with no real guidelines or innate truths. Which we totally aren’t 😉
To me, however, insignificance is empowering. It embodies beauty, poetry and the ultimate liberty. Knowledge of the cosmic imperative endows me with the greatest power of anonymity in a giant whirlwind of organized chaos, knowing my actions are similar to a speck of cosmic dust. I am unburdened by the insurmountable challenge to figure it all out, so I instead choose to extract wisdom from experience as best I can. I feel lighter, moving about my day more freely; I savour pleasure deeply, knowing my time to do so is finite; I act humbly, knowing my influence is circumscribed.
I breathe the universe. I experience the universe. I live the universe. I love the universe.
I am the universe.