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 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 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


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)



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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