Monday, March 18, 2013

The Uncertainty of It All


We all know about accepting what we can't change, change what we can, and recognize the difference. Well, sometimes that's easier said than done. At times, I fall into the mental trap of trepidation at the thought of just how helpless we humans are against the forces of this universe.

For some reason – probably stress – I have glimpses of it now. As I walk the street, I'm suddenly reminded of the thin crust of earth covering the chaotic fire within, eager to burst through. Mayhem in a minute.

The chilly wind on my cheeks and forehead, remnant of a winter unwilling to pass, creates images of a coming ice age, with a layer of ice, one thousand meters thick, spreading its deadly embrace all over Scandinavia – and perhaps, if things get really bad, growing to cover the whole planet, which would shut off life for good. What is global warming compared to that?

A glimpse at the evening sky, where the moon is unusually bright and seemingly distant, accompanied right now by a couple of planets making particularly piercing white dots – that not only reminds me of a possible meteor instantly pulverizing the crash site and miles and miles around it, maybe even covering the planet in ashes.

It also brings to mind just how helpless we and our planet are against the galactic processes, including the collision of the Milky Way with the Andromeda galaxy in about four billion years. If not doomed by then or long before then, our sun will have its spectacular death dance at about the same time. And in the long run, the whole universe is heading for a fading away like no other, a desolate cold darkness where nothing can happen.

That's very far into the future, but its chill reaches us from way yonder by the mere hopelessness of it. Neither individually nor as a species are we able to live forever. It's sad, because it gives little room for a lasting meaning in life. Whatever we do will vanish.

Death is not just something that appears at the end of every lifespan. It's present all through life, like a shadow companion threatening to strike at any moment. In the grand scheme of things, life is the anomaly and death is the rule.

We exist for an instant in a vast eternity when we do not. Actually, the time we occupy is comparable to the space we fill up in this expanding universe. The farther into the future, the less significant is that time and space of ours.

When I was a child I used to have the same dream recurring in the beginning of the summer: I dreamed that nature had somehow skipped summer, and it was winter again. The dream was so convincing, I believed it to be true until I looked out the kitchen window at breakfast. No snow! It was just a dream.

But it reminded me of the total uncertainty of life.

I know fully well that we should live in the present, which is something philosophers of old as well as present ones have told us repeatedly. There is nothing else, they say – which may be oversimplifying things, but they have a point. There is nothing else on which one can trust. What we have is what's now, right now.

So, we should live our lives from day to day, steadfast in the present as it carries us onwards through time and space. What else can we do? We can even learn to be content with it. But I am surely not the only one occasionally overcome by the uncertainty of it all. That dreadful uncertainty.

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