The Fairness Sham

Our tiny little corner of the universe.

Life is not fair. Like at all. Not in any way. Human justice is lacking and there is no such thing as universal justice, karma or retribution.

This unfairness is not news. At least, it’s not to me. I’ve known about this bias since I was a small child. I knew that the concept of justice was a sham before I even hit double digits. Yet, humans yearn for fairness. We long for some sort of just universe. We create systems of government just to give us a sense of justice, to have someone to complain to or about. We rationalize that if you do bad things, bad things will come back to haunt you, but they don’t. They just don’t.

Killers aren’t caught. Pedophiles seem to spring up everywhere. CEOs who destroy companies and the lives of countless individuals fall softly to the earth in their blood money-lined golden parachutes. Gas companies earn record profits while we regular folk have to decide between $50 in our gas tanks or eating this week. Lives are destroyed daily through incompetence, selfishness, greed, thoughtlessness or plain psychopathy. If you really believe in a just world, you haven’t been paying attention.

If you think there is some invisible puppet master out there controlling everything, well, then, you don’t really believe in free will, do you? If you have someone to whom you can point your finger when horrible things that happen, you’re not accepting your own humanity, your own will, nor mine. When you really wallow in the muck down at the bottom of the world, when you realize that no one is going to help you climb back up, when you accept that it’s your job to climb out of it should you choose to do so, well, then you are free. Freedom is realizing that even though there is no one to help you up, there’s no one to keep you down either.

To be perfectly honest, I sometimes wish I could believe that there was someone up there with a plan. Life would be a lot easier and probably make a whole lot more sense if I could blame everything on someone else. “Well, the great sky king has a plan for me and this is part of it so I guess I’ll just deal.” It would be nice to just slough it off like that, but I can’t. My thinking mechanism won’t let me. My thinker says to me, “C’mon, get real. You are responsible for you and your actions and that’s all there is to it. Now, get me some steak.”

It all makes you feel so powerless at times. Speaking of powerless, look at this picture:

Our tiny little corner of the universe known as the Milky Way.

That, my friends, is us. You, me, every planet and star visible to the naked eye, and all of recorded human history is a tiny 1/gazillionth of a pixel in that galaxy somewhere. From where we sit, the Milky Way Galaxy is huge, but check this out:

Earth swinging around the Solar System in our Solar Interstellar Neighborhood inside the Milky Way Galaxy of our Local Galactic Group, which is part of the Virgo Supercluster, one of many clusters in our neighborhood Local Superclusters in the middle of the Observable Universe. (large version)

We can’t even really conceive of that scale. The universe is bigger and older than anything we can really comprehend.

Wave for the camera.

Our species, along with all other species that have ever existed on this planet, are but a speck on the timeline of the universe. When you look at those pictures and you see our pretty blue planet nestled between a couple of microdots that are in actuality millions and millions of light years apart, doesn’t it make you feel tiny? Doesn’t it make all the squabbles and politics and daily annoyances seem so pathetically insignificant? When you think about how flash in the pan the entirety of human existence has been on a grand scale, it makes all the greed and hate and killing seem kind of silly, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it make you want to give a high five to all living creatures for surviving in that cosmic soup?

White/black, male/female, straight/gay; we are all humans on one little planet floating around in incredibly vast space and time. We are all descendents of primordial ooze. We are all the same. We all benefit from some extraordinary luck and timing to have evolved to where we are now with our thumbs and our big primate brains. Humans are able to think about our place in the grand scheme of things. Not many creatures have that ability, but we can. Life isn’t fair, but rich or poor, good or evil, all things share death. Even our solar system will die one day. Humans are born, breathe, walk, see, hear, eat, poop and eventually die. We all have to make our own way.  Just because you were born into that giant pixelated universe up there, that doesn’t mean you are owed a goddamn thing.

So, humans of Earth, stop frittering away your big primate brain power on hatred. Accept that, no matter how differently we look, act or think, we are all humans, and as such, we all share the same fatal outcome. Make of life what you want. Stop being awful to each other. We are all in this together. High five, baby.

If I Only Had 10 Years to Live

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If you only had ten more years to live, would you do anything differently?

I very well might only have ten more years to live or even only ten more days. There is no expiration date printed on me anywhere. None of us really know when we will die, unless we take it upon ourselves to make that decision. All we know is that we will. Death is really the only certainty our lifeform is afforded.

One could look at this negatively. One could say, well, since I will die anyway, what’s the point? Some do and they choose to make that decision their own. I don’t have much respect for suicide except you have to hand it to those who succeed; they decided to be in control of their own death, which is more than the rest of us can say.

I don’t think death necessarily has to be a negative though. Some cultures view it as quite a positive thing; it means that you’ve moved onto something better. It doesn’t have to be a thing hanging over our heads that we dread and fret about. It’s inevitable. There’s no way to avoid it, so why worry about it? It’s like worrying about the sun burning out. The sun has a finite amount of fuel and when that’s exhausted, that’s the end for our little solar system. The sun will die just like we will. There’s nothing we can do to change it.

That’s not to say that we should just ignore it altogether. On the contrary, an acute sense of our own expiration should spur us on. Knowing that we only have so many hours, days and minutes forces us to make the most of each one. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we get bogged down in the details of mundane life and forget that each of our days is monstrously amazing when you get down to it. When I have a rough day, I try to keep that in mind. I think about how astounding it is on a cosmic scale that I’m even here to have a rough day at all.

We evolved from pond ooze into the beings that we see around us. We evolved thumbs and the ability to use tools and fire. We evolved the ability to even consciously think about our own death. No other creature has such broad minded analytical thinking ability. You don’t see many lions committing suicide because they’re just tired of it all.

But with that power comes responsibility. Because we are able to consciously think about our own places in the universe, because we can choose to take our lives into our own hands, because we can even think about it, we should. Each of us, at some point in our lives, needs to figure out our own position on life, the universe and everything. It seems as though a lot of people are incapable or choose not to view the big picture. Though we are discrete individuals, humans as a whole, are not all that different from each other. All of our color, size, gender and sexual preferences come from a tiny percentage of differences in eukaryotic chromosomes. The bulk of our genetic structure is the same, that of Homo sapiens.

We are all the same, no matter how differently we view each other. We all are born, we grow and age, and the final reward for all this living that we manage to do is death. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, the end result is expiration. That seems fair to me.

I digress. The question is, if I only had ten more years to live, would I do anything differently?

No, I would not. I try to value every single day I exist. I try to do something. I try to scrawl my name in the sand as proof that I was here, as testimony to my existence. It may be hubris–most writing is, when you get down to it–but I’d like to leave something of me after I am gone. I write these silly answers and I’m trying to write a whole novel for National Novel Writing Month, as a semi-permanent monument to my brain, to my existence, to the strange predicament I find myself in, that of living.

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Free Will

He has no idea what this means. He's jsut doing it for a banana.

Today’s question from The Daily Post:

Do you believe in free-will or is life predetermined?

What a silly question. The fact that I am able to read that question, know what it means and answer it according to my own belief system just proves to me that humans have free will.

Light-blue Soldier Crab (Mictyris longicarpus)...
That is not me. Although, that exoskeleton is pretty cool and look at all those (delicious) legs.

I don’t believe in god(s). I never have. I don’t believe in destiny, the fates, karma, astrology, the zodiac or anything else that is supposed to determine who I am and what I will do on any given day. It’s all bunk. I’m no more a Cancer because I was born on a certain day than I am a crab. I am a human being with a brain that tells me action from non-action and right from wrong (even without a ‘moral compass’ supposedly derived from religion). I’m not shackled to a system of beliefs.

Every single day, my little brain processes more information faster than every computer on the planet put together. There are a million background processes going on within me as I type this–blinking, breathing, pumping blood, digestion of the delicious cup of coffee I just had, scent, sight, hearing and interpreting the music piping through my headphones, the feel of my fingers on the keyboard and the fact that my right leg is going slightly numb since I’m sitting on it. Maybe I should stop that. It’s my choice whether I do or not.

Over the course of all the years that I’ve been alive, my brain has honed its craft. It has streamlined operations to peak efficiency. I’m rather fond of it. Not only does it control all the functions on the ship, the SS Goldfish I guess, but it allows me to think. This thinking business, while often more trouble than it’s worth, especially when trying to sleep, is what makes me me. Without my glorious little brain, I wouldn’t be who I am.

This orangutan has no idea what that thumbs up means. He’s just doing it for a banana.

Having free will is the best thing about being a human besides having thumbs. Primates like orangutans and chimpanzees can tell when one of their kin is having a bad go of it and they will often try to comfort them by picking lice out of their fur. Dogs can read our facial expressions and sense our emotions. However, humans are the only species that has second-person empathy. Not only can I tell that you are having a bad day and try to comfort you, but I am capable of putting myself in your position. I can relate to what you are going through, visualize what I would do if it happened to me and feel empathy. Humans are capable of analyzing our world in a big picture sense in a way that orangutans cannot. That ability is what separates Homo sapiens from the rest of the lifeforms on this planet. And that is what sets us atop the food chain for better or worse.

When people disregard this amazing empathetic ability of ours, when yet another corporate executive or politician fucks over millions of people in the name of profit and greed, it really pisses me off. It seems to me that people who don’t think about the consequences of their actions on the people they will effect are less evolved than the rest of us. They think like chimpanzees when they should be able to empathize.

As a human, I can use my highly developed brain to realize that I am solely responsible for my own destiny, fate or karma. Or not. I can choose whatever I want to believe in, even if I choose to believe in a total lack of free will (which is a paradoxical exercise in free will in and of itself). I can put myself in your place and share what you are feeling.

So, humans of Earth, use your empathy. Use your thumbs. Don’t be a chimp.

The Unsung Hero (Sandwich)

IMG_6874

IMG_6874

Bread is not as easy to make as you’d think. We’ve all grown accustomed to dashing off to the grocery store to pick up a loaf for a couple of dollars. Perfectly symmetrical loaves come chopped up into perfectly symmetrical slices, wrapped up in hygienic plastic with a “use by” date. We don’t even have to think about it. It’s just there. And if it isn’t just there, we can run up to the store and buy more in a jiff.

When you make your own bread, it is far from symmetrical. You have to slice it yourself and the slices will always be lopsided and squished. Homemade bread goes bad rather quickly because you haven’t added any of the preservatives that the supermarket chains do to make it last longer.

If you have a loaf of bread, a sandwich takes only a minute or two to make. Typically, when people think about sandwiches, they think about what’s in the middle, not about the bread itself. Those slices are merely a vessel for the good stuff in between.

Bread is a genius invention, which wasn’t possible before the invention of fire. It is one of the oldest prepared foods. It is what makes food portable so that you can eat it with your hands. It allows people to leave their homes and go farther afield. With a sandwich in your backpack, you can travel as far as your feet can carry you without worrying about what’s for lunch.

Considering how involved the process of making it completely from scratch is – and I do mean completely, as in having chickens, cows and a field of wheat – I’m amazed that anyone ever thought of it, and once they did, that they continued making it. It caught on. It spread like wildfire. Most cultures, no matter how old or far away, have their own variety of bread.

Making bread is a time-consuming process. It contains ingredients that most of us don’t have in our backyards and wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to acquire if civilization as we know it ceased. Does your average modern humanoid know how to make flour or yeast? Probably not. I don’t anyway. Making bread is sort of like raising a child; you can’t just leave it all alone in the house while you run off to see a movie. It takes patience and a sense of timing. It needs to be cared for and coddled. If you attend to it properly, it will come out just fine as a well-adjusted adult loaf. If you neglect it, if you don’t nurture it, it will die.

Bread is the forgotten superstar of the sandwich. Perhaps that’s why submarine sandwiches are often referred to as heroes. The next time you bite into a sandwich, think about the bread and how awesome we are as a species for inventing it.

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Would I Want To Live Forever?

Or a picture of Oscar Wilde.

I might, but it depends on the circumstances. Am I a vampire where I have to feed off human blood and not be in the sunlight ever? Would I have a picture that ages instead of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray?

Or a picture of Oscar Wilde.
Or a picture of Oscar Wilde.

Would I continue aging so that I’m forever stuck in a 900 year old body with the inevitable infirmities that come with living? Is there some sort of trade-off? If any of that is the case, then no, I wouldn’t want to live forever.

However, if we’re just talking about eliminating the fear and possibility of death, then maybe. I might not mind the chance to do things again and again until I got them right. I might like to see humanity evolve past superstition and intolerance. I might like to see humans stop killing each other over the same. If I were to live forever, I might even be able to sway humanity towards our better qualities and away from the bad, but perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.

Perhaps living forever would simply entail watching humanity destroy itself over and over again, and be powerless to stop it. Perhaps eternal life would only lead to seeing more of the evil that exists in the world on a larger scale. Perhaps I’m giving the human race too much credit. Perhaps humanity is a dying concept. In addition to describing the state of being human, the noun humanity also means humaneness and benevolence. This definition of humanity seems hardly to apply to humans at all these days.

Either the human race will destroy itself and everything else by its own ignorance, shortsightedness and greed, or it will eventually wise up and realize that all humans are basically the same. We all essentially have the same genetic building blocks and this hatred, killing and intolerance of which we are so fond is like cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Maybe, on a long enough time line, humanity can evolve past our own idiocy and make that noun actually mean something again. Either way, I think I might like to see that. I’ll sit in the back row with a tub of popcorn and a soda, and watch the show. Sign me up.

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Patent Pending

Thomas Edison, nytimes.com

If you could invent anything, what would it be?

Thomas Edison, nytimes.com
Thomas Edison, nytimes.com

Anything? That’s an awfully big word. It leaves limitless possibilities, including things that we haven’t even thought of yet, but I guess that’s the whole point of inventing.

Time travel is out. I’ve seen the movies and I know how those stories always end. With the exception of maybe The Terminator, time travel always ends badly. Although the financial aspect of time travel cannot be denied. I could go back to last year and put a huge bet on the Super Bowl except for the fact that I don’t remember who won or even who played. I could warn people in 2006 of the impending real estate collapse, but they probably wouldn’t believe me anyway.

I could invent a way to speed up evolution, but The Outer Limits already tried that and it didn’t end well. I could invent a way to increase everyone’s IQ by 100 points, but then no one would want to fix the sewers. I’m certainly not implying that sewer fixers are unintelligent, but that’s how it went down when The Twilight Zone did that one.

I could invent a way to travel faster than the speed of light. We could hop around the galaxies and see what’s out there, but we’d probably just destroy whatever we found, so maybe it’s better that we humans stay put here on Earth.

Teleportation would be nice. It would put the airlines out of business. The last flight I took was canceled, forcing me to wait nine hours in an airport. When they finally flew me back, it was to the wrong airport, and as an added bonus, they lost my luggage. An industry like that might be better just going away entirely, but then a lot of people would be out of work. And there’s always the danger of not coming out on the other side in one piece.

Inventing a way to make all resources renewable would be good. You could cut down a tree and another one, just as big, would instantly sprout up in its place. The same would go for fish in the ocean, animals on the plains, oxygen in the atmosphere, and cars could run on a never-ending supply of dead dinosaurs. There would never be another oil spill in the ocean and all those wars over oil and natural resources would be moot. I’m sure we’d find a way to mess that one up too though. Perhaps it would lead to overcrowding if the whales that we keep killing were instantly regenerated.

I could invent a cure for cancer or AIDS. It would be nice to never have people suffer from these diseases again, but something else would just pop up to kill us in its place. It always does.

I could invent a way for people to respect each other, no matter what they believed, and realize that we’re essentially all the same. We are all Homo sapiens, no matter what our differences. Imagine a world where people tolerated each others beliefs, cultures and lifestyles. Imagine a world where what you believe is a private matter between you, your god and the people who share your views. Imagine a world with no religious wars, suicide bombers, snap judgments, hate crimes, bigotry, proselytizing or religion in government. Everyone would be free to believe whatever they wanted, privately, and no one would try to convince anyone else that their views were better than any other. There would be no war, no hatred, no killing in the name of some god or other. That might be the greatest invention of all. Da Vinci and Thomas Edison would be proud.

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Tastes Like Chicken

allthatsplatters.blogspot.com

What is the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?

This is a very subjective question. What’s weird to some is normal to others. Some cultures eat animals that we keep as pets as a normal part of their diet, while others view delicious bacon as evil. Some people don’t eat meat, others don’t eat vegetables. It’s all a matter of perspective.

That being said, I’ve eaten most parts of a lot of animals except for the brains. I just don’t feel right about eating brains. I’m not a zombie. I’m not all that fond of tongues, eyeballs, feet or livers either.

Humans don’t just eat food with our mouths. We eat with all five senses and our brain, too. If we don’t like the way something looks, smells or the texture on our tongue, we probably won’t enjoy eating it. When a plate is put in front of us, our brains reckon all the past encounters and associations we’ve had with that particular dish, the way that chicken soup for most people reminds them of being sick. If you can get around the associations and the appearance, then there’s the smell. Subconsciously, smell is the most important factor in whether we’ll find something delicious or not. If you don’t like the smell, you probably won’t like the food.

Some food items, like anise or black licorice, are black and white. There is no middle ground with black licorice. You can’t sort of like it; you either love it or hate it.

Probably the strangest taste to me is the artichoke. Nothing else tastes like an artichoke. It has a flavor unto itself. However, whenever I have it, I can’t help but think that it tastes a little like something else to me, but I cannot put my finger on exactly what it is. Perhaps it’s just human nature to try to compare one food item to another. We like to categorize things into nice, neat packages. “It tastes like chicken.” The fact is, artichoke tastes like artichoke and you either like it or you don’t.

allthatsplatters.blogspot.com
allthatsplatters.blogspot.com

My attitude with food has always been I’ll try anything once as long as it’s not still wriggling. I draw the line at eating living things. I like to keep an open mind on all things, even food. This culinary adventurousness has led me down some very strange paths. If I like it, I’ll even try it more than once.

The exception to that rule might be longpig. I’m not sure that I could eat human. If, for example, my plane crashed in the Andes and it was a choice between eat Bob’s arm or die, I would probably eat Bob’s arm. But, under normal circumstances, I don’t think I could eat human. That’s just one taboo I’m not willing to break unless my life depends on it.

When I eat animal, and I admit that I am an unrepentant carnivore, I try to remember what it is that I’m eating. A lot of people like to dress up their meat in such a way that they can pretend they’re eating a zucchini or some innocuous tuber. A lot of people try to ignore the fact that the food they are eating was once a living animal. I try not to do that. I try to remember that, like all other animals, I’m part of the food chain. Eating meat is how the Homo sapien evolutionary chain has survived as long as it has. The fact that my monkey ancestors had roast beast over a fire pit in a cave has allowed me to be here. Having a nice, fat, juicy steak is no different than a lion taking down a gazelle on the plain. We are lions. I try to acknowledge that animal, and thank it for being part of my personal food chain and allowing my evolutionary link to survive for one more day.

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Something Else

Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Would you describe yourself as spiritual, religious, or something else?

Something else… as in none of the above. I have no faith in god and little in man. I’m not a huge fan of defining myself with one-word terms, but society generally demands it.

These are some brushstroke summations that often define me: female, Caucasian, citizen, registered voter, organ donor, employed or unemployed, graphic designer, never been convicted of a felony, never served in the armed forces, no preexisting medical conditions, born in Detroit, mother’s maiden name… for security purposes, we’ll leave that one out. If I’m asked to provide a religion, I usually just put “none” as the answer. It’s a nice, simple, four-letter word.

These things are so often asked that I don’t even have to think about them, I just answer. I think a lot of people are that way with religion. When asked to fill in the blank, they just put whatever religion it is that their parents believed, whether they are practicing or not.

But, I have thought about it a great deal over the course of my life. I’ve written about it at length, too. I just wrote a post about Church the other day and another one about the formation of my non-belief in the post Semantics & Isms a few months back.

My lack of beliefs haven’t changed over time, but my attitude has. The older I get, the less tolerant of organized religion I become, particularly in government. That the wall separating church and state seems to be crumbling has me greatly worried. When public buildings are overflowing with religious sentiment and crèches, when the currency in my wallet still has “in god we trust” written on it (did you know that phrase was only added during the communist scare in the 50’s?), when my tax dollars are given to churches, well, that, to me, is a problem. It goes against the spirit of the constitution. It goes against the first amendment and that is something that shouldn’t happen. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It goes both ways. No religion shall be hindered nor placed on a higher pedestal than any other.

Say, for example, the first amendment was abolished. What if it wasn’t your religion that the government chose to propagate? What if, instead of celebrating the life and death of Jesus in public buildings, it was the life and death of Buddha or Muhammad or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? The first amendment exists so that no one is left out. You can choose to practice, or not practice, any religion your heart desires and the government cannot stop you, but the reverse is true too; it cannot financially support nor endorse a religion either.

Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I just helped a friend sort out his mother’s affairs after she died. She left no money to bury her and she couldn’t keep up the payments on her mortgage, but we found folders containing ‘thank you for your donation’ letters from various religious organizations. Even after all those donations, my friend had to pay out of pocket for the church funeral. When a religious organization convinces you that you will go to hell, or some equivalent thereof, if you don’t donate money, and you donate money irrespective of your own financial hardship, well, that seems wrong to me. She would have been better served putting that money towards her own burial or her mortgage.

In this day and age, when we are positively dripping with science, that I am a minority in my non-religious belief leaves me dumbfounded. This isn’t the Dark Ages. We know that the Earth isn’t flat and it revolves around the sun, not the other way around. We know what germs are. We know what atoms are. We have explored space. Humanity has come a long way, but we still haven’t evolved past superstition.

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Seeing Stars

Orion in all his celestial glory, forever lifting his leg. (from Brittannica)

You know what I love? Stars. I don’t mean the common, five-pointed shape or the latest, greatest celebrities. I’m talking about the amorphous plasma balls radiating energy through thermonuclear fusion in outer space, millions and millions of miles away.

You know why? Not only is their sheer existence magnificent since they manage the extraordinary act of not collapsing under the weight of their own gravity, but because they make me feel insignificant. They make all of my problems seem entirely pointless (which they are). Sometimes I need to be reminded of that. Sometimes all of the little, day to day trivialities become too much for my tiny primate brain to handle, and I begin to worry about things; stupid, inconsequential things over which I have no control anyway.

When that occurs, and it happens to be nighttime, I go outside, look up and I see a million stars staring back at me. I find it comforting that the same constellations that I knew as a kid are still there: The Big Dipper in the summer, Orion in the winter. Actually, those are the only two I recognize by sight anymore. I need to remedy that.

The megalopolis of Los Angeles probably has more people and lights than most countries. This means that 1) a person is never truly alone, which can be comforting or annoying depending on your perspective and 2) the ability to see the stars in all of their celestial glory is severely hampered. From my particular latitudinal and longitudinal vantage point, the only stars I can see are the big, bad, bright ones, which tend to be planets anyway.

With Orion, I can only clearly see his belt, but I’d know that belt anywhere. Orion is my winter protector. Everywhere I go, I look up and see him. Yeah, everyone in the proper geographic location can as well, but I mean that, if I only have access to a slice of sky, odds are, I’ll see Orion in that slice. If the house in which I dwell was on the other side of the street, I wouldn’t see Orion, but chance has it that, all winter long, he’s in plain sight over my abode.

Of course, I don’t mean to imply that Orion is a living, breathing, sentient thing that cares about me or my whereabouts in the slightest. He’s just a group of luminous points in the night sky that happens to have a name that I happen to know and recognize. And since someone personified that cluster of stars long ago, I see no need to break with tradition.

Orion in all his celestial glory, forever lifting his leg. (Image from Britannica)

Where my parents live, in rural, northern Michigan, it seems as though you can even see into neighboring galaxies. There are so many stars, and they all shine so brightly, that it’s hard to tell one constellation from another. The night sky actually looks three-dimensional; you can almost tell which are closer and which are father away. The stars are so visible that you don’t even have to crane your head upward as they peek right over the horizon. It makes you feel as if you’ve been thrown back in time to an era before science.

I used to spend every summer there at that cottage on the lake. To this day, my favorite place to be in the whole world is lying horizontally on the end of the dock, outstretched over the clear, freshwater lake. If the water level is high enough, you can lie on your back and lazily drag your hand through the tranquil night water as it gently laps beneath you. As you breathe deeply of the clean, summer night air that smacks of pine and cedar, the only sounds you will hear are the distant chirping of crickets and twittering of birds. Overhead, there is a circus of stars, all performing at their twinkling best for your benefit. There is nothing that will make you realize the vastness of the universe and your own irrelevance to it all better than that.

Some people may read this and wonder, “Why on Earth would you want to feel insignificant or irrelevant?” All you have to do in order to feel important is read one of a few sacred books and do exactly as it says, even if it’s constantly contradicting itself. This kind of thinking drives me batty.

The problem with most religions is that they are designed to go against one of the rules of the universe: it is not about you. Religion makes the world so much smaller than it actually is. Some religions say that the planet is only a few thousand years old. Some religions make man out to be something that rolled off an assembly line, fully equipped. Where is the wonderment in that? Isn’t it much more amazing to think that man evolved from primordial ooze? Isn’t it more exhilarating to think that only through a random and rather lucky series of events did our evolutionary chain survive?

The only reason I’m writing this, hitting the space bar with my thumbs is that my ancestors evolved over millennia from soup to nuts, and not because some blind, deaf and dumb (in at least one sense of the word) god made me in his image.

Anyway, back to the point; why is it that I would choose to feel insignificant, since it seems to be the opposite of that which everyone else in the world is striving?

When you let your brain soak in the entirety of its diminutive existence, when you realize that you are just a tiny nano-speck on the unquantifiable time line that is the length and breadth of the universe, and that you are, in fact, a proverbial grain of sand on a gigantic beach, it is liberating. Only when you acknowledge how small, unimportant and flash in the pan you really are, along with everyone and everything around you, can you let it all go, be free, truly appreciate what you have and accept responsibility for your own actions. There is no pre-destiny. There is no divine intervention. There is no right nor wrong, other than the rules mankind has made for itself, and the hard and fast laws of the universe.

The next time you have a really bad day and the world is out to get you, turn off the television, the computer and all the lights. Go outside, preferably at night, take a deep breath and look up. You will see at least a few twinkling stars affixed to the black, night sky gazing back at you.

Those little lights are very far away and they’re actually enormous. Their light has traveled over millions of miles and countless years to sparkle and shine in front of your ocular cavities at that precise moment. The orbs inside your ocular cavities have evolved in such a way as to be able to perceive that light, and the gray stuff inside your brainpan can identify what it is.

Those stars up there are the very same stars on which our prehistoric ancestors gazed. They were there before we existed as a species and they very well might outlive us. If we destroy the Earth with our selfishness and greed, they will live on, at least until they run out of fuel, which will be long after you and I are gone.

If you’re not accustomed to that sort of grand-scale thinking, it may be scary at first, but try it anyway. It always makes me feel better. If not, might I suggest getting a puppy?