Source: Anna and Elena Balbusso
“Think about it.” he said adjusting into the driver’s seat.
“Everything everyone’s ever valued or cared about is a joke. We live and we die and we vanish from the world the same way we materialised into it. Some tears get shed by some people we knew who materialised into it too, and then THEY die and its the same process over and again. And the Universe moves madly on. Indifferent to any of it.” He paused to draw a cigarette.
“What about love? What about music?” she said breaking the silence.
“What about them?” He chuckled back, perplexed, holding the lighter to his face.
“You experience them don’t you? You experience affection for creatures beyond yourself. You get excited when your favourite song comes on-”
“Oh come on.”
“Its just a human construct. Do you think ants feel “love” for each other the way musicians claim people do? What about a virus cell? Do you think it feels love for all the other cells it clones? Or vice versa? Obviously not. The only reason we do is because we’re programmed to by society. Some chemicals we evolved during the medieval ages to help strengthen family bonds.. ”
“So, you don’t think human action has any purpose?”
“I didn’t say that. But honestly think about it: were so insignificant, we may as-well not exist. We’re less than insignificant, we’re invisible. Billions of galaxies of hundreds of Billions of stars, and a speck on one in a blink. That’s us, lost in space. Blinking in and out of existence, one at a time. You, me, our best friends, our relatives, the mailman, Ghandi, his kids… Who notices? We’re dots roaming around on a tiny blue speck thats less than a drop in the cosmic ocean. God is dead, and with him we were buried too. Maybe people were happier back when they believed they were the centre of the Universe. So what’s the point?”
She mouthed out a cigarette and lit it.
“Whats the point of anything anyone ever does to survive if they’re just gonna die and fade out of existence eventually anyway?”
“You’re a fucking dumbass.” She shot back, exhaling a long puff of smoke with a laugh.
“What? Why? What’s so funny about what I said” He said, half sarcastically.
“Everything. You: You. Are. A dumbass. An existentialist dumbass. And you’re totally wrong. And you know what? I’ve heard this shit hundreds of times from dozens of people before, and i’m sick of it. It’s bull. Who says we’re “insignificant”? I’m sorry, have you ever stopped to consider that maybe, just maybe were actually inconceivably incredible? That maybe were actually the greatest fucking masterpiece the Universe ever churned and spat out?” He tried to counter but she stopped him. He conceded to listen.
“What if we are the actual point of the Universe you feel so dwarfed by. The product of eons of cosmic histo-”
“You’ve been watching Carl Sagan again”
“Yeah, so what?” she blushed. “And so what if I have? I think we need to once in a while. What’s wrong with being reminded who we are and where we come from? Now, please think about this: the Universe is just a massive collection of stars, right?”
“Sure.” He drew another cigarette.
“Well, whats a star? I mean, not in the “oh so bright, I get lost in them like I get lost in your eyes” sense. I mean in terms of composition, evolution, etc. Its just a massive factory of Hydrogen and Helium burning and fusing together, releasing energy, kept intact by gravity.”
She had come to life in her seat, and started flailing her hands around as she spoke.
“Like everything else in the Universe, it has a beginning and an end, and once that end is reached, it dies and leaves an imprint to everything around it. Some star that died billions of years ago helped create every planet in our system and everything within them. Including us. Us! From what was basically a giant heat emitting onion.”
“So?” he flicked his cigarette away.
“So? SO? So do you understand what that means? Can you comprehend the mind-blowing magnificence of that? That you and I are made of those same stars? Every atom in your stubborn nihilistic body was forged at the heart of one of them, billions of years ago.”
“So, you think humans are more fascinating than stars and galaxies. Something which, currently, we only have a vague conception of?”
“I never said that. I’m not downplaying the awesome majesty of the Universe. On the contrary, I am completely humbled and belittled by it. I love it. I wish I could be a cosmologist or an astro-biologist or work under a big telescope somewhere in space. But i’m equally fascinated by people. In the same way that you could spend eons studying the cosmos, you could spend the same time studying humans, and still be surprised. I think were just as special and beautiful and complex, if not more. The fact that we were created by cosmic processes that lasted billions of years only makes me more humbled by it all. With all due respect: Fuck the stars. Fuck the galaxies. As far as i’m concerned they’re just big atomic factories, layered like onions. Their purpose was to die and create you and me. They died and sent every atom and stuff of their being hurling through space. That stuff created the Earth and other planets. Then, by total chance, it all came together. All that stuff, billions of years ago. Elements, made inside stars, that would’ve otherwise never served any purpose beyond “existing”, fused together and created something that lived. Something that was at-least marginally conscious of itself and its survival. And it grew. Take that into context: atoms that were separated by weight in a star and did nothing but rise and sink, were able to fuse into something more complex. That something evolved into us. Were alive. The fact that we’re having this conversation, in this car, on this hill, in our clothes, in our society, in a world forged by a long history of politics and sociology and environmental and atmospheric change, is the most beautiful thing I can possibly imagine.”
He was now mesmerised, almost giving up trying to counter her. Some ash had fallen onto the dashboard.
“Right now, your heart and mine are pumping blood and Iron forged in the centre of an exploding star billions of years ago. The molecules in every strand of DNA you, me, Gebran, Hitler, Sagan, the mailman and everyone ever had in them were all created billions of years ago, when some ancient star began dying out and supernova’d all over the place.”
They immaturely laughed at this.
“All the atoms and compounds in the serotonin surging through your brain when you drink, or cry or make love. All of it, made somewhere in some lame star. So, in essence, we’re the next step. A combination that came to exist, out of a billion other potential ones which ultimately resulted in you and me. This car, this conversation, this hill, this cigarette. Our way of life. everything”
“You don’t think you’re giving humanity just a little too much credit”
“I’m not even giving it enough credit. Think of it this way: A star you can look at and predict precisely what its made out of: Hydrogen, Helium and an Iron core, and some other stuff. We can know how long it has to live and predict what effect its going to have on the planets, asteroids, etc. Its like a pretty golden earring: its magnificent but I know exactly what’ll happen to it if I apply heat, or time, or fuse it with another element. Its beautiful, but just a product of physics and nature and you know with some certainty how its going to behave day in day out.”
“You can apply all those things to humans too. If I add heat to you, I can predict how you’ll react.”
“Tell that to Joan of Arc. Or the monks who immolated themselves for others’ rights. Or any man or Woman tortured and burned for something they believed in. Tell that to the Chilean natives who refused to scream as they were being slowly impaled from the bottom up by conquistadors. Humans are much more precarious than stars. They’re far more complex.”
He took out the last two Marlboros, slipped one between his lips and one into hers. He lit a fire and cradled it in front of her mouth. Then responded:
“Everything you say makes sense. But I still don’t understand how you can justify humanity as a more significant thing than the entire cosmos. It still sounds absurd to me, just because you give something purpose doesn’t necessarily mean it actually has any. Clerics gave humanity “purpose” for more or less the same reason for millennia because they thought we were created in God’s image. Do you think your narrative is much different just because you explain it through science instead of faith?”
“Look: Maybe there’s a God and maybe there isn’t. Maybe we’re all put on here for some “Special purpose” and maybe were not. The point is I don’t care. All I care about is the fact that, right now, “I am the Universe expressing itself”, to quote a certain someone. The culmination of years of chaos and evolution and chance. What I lack in size, I make up for in complexity. What I lack in efficacy, I make up for in introspection. Everything around us is like that. Insignificant but meaningful. Show me a nebula and I’ll show you Shakespear’s sonnets or Tagore’s poems. Show me a star cluster and i’ll fucking play you Chopin’s Berceuse, or some Broken Social Scene. Show me visions of the Galaxy, and i’ll show you some beautiful Graffiti sprayed on the Berlin Wall. Maybe I am glorifying humanity more than it deserves. Who knows? Maybe the Universe created us so we could create some other perfect being. Maybe our purpose is to create machines that are perfect. Time will tell. But for now I choose to believe that regardless of how fragile or tiny or lost we are, we’re the most perfect, most beautiful mistake the Universe ever churned out. And that makes me feel alive. That gives me purpose. And it should give you purpose too.”
In the darkness her cigarette blazed like a miniature sun, he found himself thinking. And for a moment, he swore he could feel the power of an entire cosmos coursing through his veins. The closer she got, the more alive he felt.