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The Universe or Nothing

by Daniel Brenton on September 8, 2012

in The Meaning of Existence (and all that)

The Universe

    Do we really create our lives? Is this an offer from the Universe that would be really stupid to refuse?

Start: Here’s a choice for me. Which would I rather do? —

  1. Consign myself with 100% certainty to making peace with a world that’s metaphorically going to Hell, and to doing the best with what I can grab that’s still around? Or …
  2. Gamble that this little niggling inner sense I keep having isn’t lying to me, and that I, as an individual, have the power to make my life literally better than I can imagine?

(And, no, I’m not going to answer, “I’ll take door number three, Monty.”)

I know what my father would do. He might make noises like he would choose Door Number Two, but his actions would reflect Door Number One.

And until a couple of days ago, like father, like son.

Motivational Statements from the Edge

Why am I even thinking about this?

A friend of mine, Pamela Wilson, is a speaker/facilitator, coach, contributed to a published collection of motivational stories, and is very close to completing her first solo book. She’s one of these people we run into in our lives that reminds us by their very existence that there’s Something More, not by what she teaches necessarily, but by what she is.

We had a conversation a few days ago, and she recently posted an article, “Universe in Motion,” that captures on the blog portion of her site my take away of the discussion:

So I went back to the drawing board. Yes, the coach got a coach. Who laughed at/with me because my imagination failed. He asked that ever-popular question, “If time and money were not an object, what would you want to do with your life?”

We’ve all heard these kind of motivational statements, and, honestly, I’ve never been able to take them seriously. I’d heard another one, from Brian Tracy, by way of professional speaker/speaking coach Darren LaCroix: What would you dare to dream if you knew you wouldn’t fail?

My response was, well, that’s silly, Darren. Your argument is invalid. Of course I could fail.

A line pops into my head this very moment: That’s your uncle talking. It’s Obi-Wan Kenobi from the original Star Wars, spoken to Luke Skywalker when Luke says he can’t get involved.

Yeah, Brian and Darren, that was my father talking.

Now, my father was a provider. We were solidly middle class, had everything we needed, even some of what we wanted. But when it came to how he lived his life, he was a shriveled up little prune that was about as interesting as heaping tablespoon of scouring powder.

Risks? Hell, no!

So a couple of nights ago I was standing in a shower, looking at a life that’s not working anywhere near as well as I’d like it to be, and here’s this phrase Pam said to me in our discussion bouncing around in my head like a ball from a primitive video game: If time and money were not an object, what would you want to do with your life?

But Pam, time and money ARE objects.

Daniel? You’re not listening.

… To the Everlasting Bonfire?

In all fairness to myself (and anyone else, really), this is not a trivial exercise. To actually take that motivational statement seriously, for most of us in America it means completely turning our relationship with our lives upside down.

We’re so dragged down as a society that the idea of personal fulfillment is the last thing on our minds. For the last four years we’re collectively worried about the economy, we’re wondering if our leaders will ever do anything right for our country, we’ve got that niggling emptiness for our cousin in Wisconsin that hasn’t been able to find a job in a year and a half, we’re feeling a slow, creeping dread that our insatiable war machine will envelope us in yet another mistake in the Middle East.

Here we are marching down the corridors of our lives: getting older, poorer, more hopeless. The richest of the rich are soaring off into the rarefied reaches of the economic stratosphere, propelled by the vitality that they’ve bled out of the helpless; the Earth’s ecosystem strains, species vanish, migration patterns change, the icecaps disappear; and entropy walks with us every step of our lives, and science has even recently suggested the fabric of the Universe will disintegrate long before the heat death can claim the lives of the few dully glowing red dwarf stars that might still exist in that dim future.

Fulfillment? We just want to feel like waking up tomorrow.

And standing in the shower, there’s that nagging little voice again: Daniel?

So What’s the Answer?

Is there an answer?

Yes, I think there is. This:

We are responsible for everything in our lives. Our lives are the result of every choice we make and every belief we carry.

There was a time that the mere suggestion of this would have turned me into a raving maniac. I remember throwing a Denis Waitley book across a room when he made the very same contention.

You can argue, what about the poor children in Africa, dying in mindless violence, misery, and poverty? How could they have possibly chosen that life?

All right, why would I choose a life where I lived in relative comfort, but was constantly emotionally (and frequently physically) brutalized by my parents? Why would I choose a life where my genetic nearsightedness made me a target of bullies throughout my school years?

I’m sure you’ve got a few “whys” in your life, too.

I have come to an understanding of some of the enigmas in my life. I have faith the rest actually have reasons, because the Universe is not meaningless.

This can be argued, of course, but the simple truth is that in order to see meaning, we have to believe it’s there in the first place.

(If you want to believe our existence is meaningless, then that’s up to you. I suspect we’d have very little to talk about.)

The Key to Freedom?

So it’s laid out right in front of me: it appears that we are responsible for everything in our lives. As grim as this may sound, this would actually be our Key to Freedom. We create our lives.

Pam “gets” this. She may not be rolling in dough or command the level of envy of someone like Tony Robbins, but she “gets” it. Shortly after the economy melted down, Pam walked away from a long teaching career … with very few resources … to pursue what she loved — speaking, coaching, teaching in a framework that (in my words) wasn’t stifled by bureaucracy and pettiness. And it hasn’t been easy, but she succeeded.

I know Pam, so it’s not like I can dismiss her success to luck or that it’s actually some kind of facade. In my position, for me to reject what she’s been able to accomplish is to reject reality.

I’m not suggesting you take my word for it, but you probably have someone in your life like this, too.

If we really do create our own lives, then something inside all of us is really the source of whatever creates it — it’s not the economy or anything else you’d care to enumerate, and we don’t have anything beyond ourselves keeping it from happening. Not Wall Street, not the Chinese, not the Republicans or the Democrats or, or, or …

By extension, the belief that any of these things stand between us and the fulfillment of we want is putting ourselves in a victim mentality.

Okay, let me put it bluntly: it’s finding blame for our failure.

The Literally Unimaginable

The UniverseSo, it’s my turn to “get” it, once and for all, deep in my gut, down in my bones so that it’s never a question again.

This is either a load of wild blueberry muffins, or it’s really How Things Work. It is True (with a capital “Ta”) or it is not. If it isn’t, we have to make that peace with a world that’s going metaphorically to Hell, and make the best of what we can grab that’s still around. And if it’s true, then the freedom this means is literally unimaginable.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by suggesting you follow my lead, and I’m not going to attempt to manipulate you into believing that it’s the right door to take, through some kind of “Law of Attraction” version of Pascal’s Wager. I would be lying to you if I did either of these things, because I honestly don’t know yet.

For me, though, the bottom line is that it’s the Universe or nothing.

Seems like a no-brainer.

• • •

Copyright © 2012, by Daniel Brenton. All Rights Reserved.


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Daniel Brenton is the creator/author of the 5 Second Novel series, co-author of the space race thriller Red Moon (with David S. Michaels), and is the author of the satirical column The Round Files, published in Stuart Miller's short-lived Alien Worlds Magazine.

Despite being a writer, Daniel has no cats at this time, is unwilling to become an alcoholic, and has a very difficult time keeping a straight face while writing about himself in third person.

Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and StumbleUpon.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela September 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm

It can be exceedingly difficult to overcome our programming – I will probably always be pointing that out to myself as well. But I do believe it’s possible to learn to open ourselves up to possibilities yet unimagined – to realize our unlimited potential and then, the sky really is the limit.
Angela recently posted … Welcome to 2012My Profile


Daniel Brenton September 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Angela —

Our programming is enormous. It could be that there are those that are banking on controlling us through our despair, but that would mean that despite their relative success they don’t really understand how this works, because they wouldn’t need our subjugation for their own success.

And this isn’t a justification for the Stinkingly Rich, either, though some might think it is. One of our current presidential candidates, if we’re to take this article at face value, might as well have been the model for the character Gordon Gecko in Wall Street. The article notes that the predatory practices used by this … person … and his company actually didn’t work as well as conventional (non-predatory) investment strategies.

One of my tasks is to not get dragged down into the ugly wall of mass belief that these misguided souls can control who I am at the deepest levels. They don’t. They are not God/Tao/Source no matter what they think of themselves.

Thanks for dropping in. Always a pleasure to see you.

— Daniel


Kathy @BlissHabits September 9, 2012 at 10:52 am

I have long believed the Earl Nightingale adage “We become what we think about.” however the real trouble comes when I try to think new thoughts… it is so easy to slip back into safe programming that was taught to us by well meaning parents and the society at large. If it were possible to remove all that chatter what could be possible?!!
Kathy @BlissHabits recently posted … I’m marveling at my parents’ bravery and my almost certain future.My Profile


Daniel Brenton September 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Kathy —

“Safe programming” — I understand! Yes, it was from well-meaning parents for some, but ultimately it doesn’t appear to be safe at all.

I’m convinced there are people who are vastly successful at losing the chatter. I don’t think it’s a matter of possibility, I think it’s a matter of paying attention and listening inside. I’m fortunate to have a low-key example of that success in my life, and considering the folks that we know in common, it looks like we have other examples around us as well.

And … I wouldn’t dismiss what you’ve accomplished by any means.

Thanks for stopping by.

— Daniel


Alejandro Reyes September 9, 2012 at 6:13 pm

This is an epic post, Daniel!

I think the understanding you have achieved is one that we all must face, and there are different answers. I think it all boils down to what each one believes about the world and ourselves.

Possibilities are limitless, but then again, we need to choose one of those possibilities to see any outcome, right? 🙂
Alejandro Reyes recently posted … Celebrate with us our first anniversary!My Profile


Daniel Brenton September 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Alex —

Thank you for the kind words, sir.

And, yes, the possibilities are limitless. I do tend to think that finding the right direction for each individual is a process: a direction starts to become clear, one moves closer, then as one gets closer the person realizes the direction has to be adjusted.

I suppose Life might work differently than that, but this is what it looks like to me at the moment.

Thanks for the visit.

— Daniel


Sandi Amorim September 10, 2012 at 7:52 am

The Universe or nothing…

When you put it like that I’ll take the Universe please! Like you and Pam, I’ve been questioning (and doubting) a lot of what I’ve learned over the years in this realm we call personal development. It’s given me many a sleepless night. And even though I kept being pulled toward nothing, the bottom line is I really don’t want to go there.

It does feel better to think of being part of this whole we call the Universe, and whether it’s real or not is not the point for me. It’s that the belief leaves me feeling a bit more empowered and willing to be responsible for my life. And that makes all the difference.
Sandi Amorim recently posted … How to Break Free of a BurnoutMy Profile


Daniel Brenton September 10, 2012 at 9:56 am

Sandi —

It does feel better to think of being part of this whole we call the Universe … It’s that the belief leaves me feeling a bit more empowered and willing to be responsible for my life.

I think you’ve hit a key piece in this. Instinctively, it seems to me that the recognition of being part of the underlying unity is essential to being able to shape our lives toward something more deeply fulfilling.

Thank you for dropping in. Glad you enjoyed the piece.

— Daniel


Jackie Walker September 11, 2012 at 5:00 am

I love how you’ve captured the nuances of the dilemma Daniel. It’s one I’ve been very closely acquainted with this year, to the point of giving up believing what I have loved and believed for the last 8 years. I looked for other options, they needed me to unlearn all I’ve learned and benefitted from, they needed me to accept things I just could not, nor would not. What happened instead was that the surrendering, the really admitting it to be true, has given me motivation in the muscle, not just the head. Now for the next bit!
Jackie Walker recently posted … Mothering is AbstractMy Profile


Daniel Brenton September 11, 2012 at 9:32 am

Jackie —

Thank you for the warm comments.

And that’s just it, isn’t it? — we’ve both hit a point where the things we’ve held dear get challenged, things we’ve believed in our hearts have to become things we know in our bones, know in the darkest corners of ourselves so that the shadows are swept away.

I’ve been seeing a phrase a lot on the internet: “Sh*t just got real.” Yeah, it’s gotten real for me (and it sounds like for you), and I think ultimately that’s a good thing, because now it has a chance of staying real.

Thanks for stopping by.

— Daniel


Carol Hess September 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

Love this thought-full post, Daniel. For me, it’s as simple (not easy) as this. How do I want to feel? Happy. Empowered. Inspired. So I choose to vote on the side of the Universe because voting on the side of nothing doesn’t make me feel the way I want to feel. If I’m wrong, so what? Let me have my delusion/illusion (what’s the difference between these two? I never have known) of infinite freedom. It makes me feel better, even when it scares the hell out of me. Life is meaningless? I’m meaningless? No thanks. Not where I choose to go or how I choose to live my life.
Carol Hess recently posted … When you know what you’re worth,My Profile


Daniel Brenton September 11, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Carol —

Wow, thank you for the enthusiasm here and on Facebook. I’m flattered. Truly.

I understand what you mean when you say we should allow ourselves our delusion/illusion.

Forgive me if I split hairs here: one of my long-standing contentions is that we really can know truth in a personal way. We tend to think in terms of Truth (with that capital “Ta”) as something that is provable objectively, and if we can’t prove it, we dismiss the validity. This, I think, is a mistake, because some truths can’t be proven, but they are nonetheless true. (For instance, I’m not about to tell Betty J. Eadie that she didn’t experience Heaven in her Near Death Experience, though there’s no way she could prove it happened.) The subtlety there is that we have to be clear as to what we believe to be real, and what we directly perceive as real. That’s would be our responsibility, too.

Practically speaking there may not be any difference, but personally I’d have a little niggling thing going on in the back of my mind wondering about it, and I would tend to think that might effect the results.

Carol, thank you again.

— Daniel


Sarah O'Leary September 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm

That choice you open up with is a profound one – and we are all microcosms of the bigger choice we as a society are faced with: as resources become scarcer are we going to grab on tight to what we have, refusing to share and collaborate – or are we going to move towards a kinder and more cooperative system?

I sure like to believe the latter, but it’s going to take a heck of a lot of individuals to do the inner work you speak of first! I choose the Universe too! Love that line, and I’m going to remind my inner critic next time she comes to call (which will probably be in about 5 minutes.)

Thanks for this Daniel! Lots to think about.


Daniel Brenton September 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Sarah —

Thank you so much for your thoughts on this.

It really comes down to fear, doesn’t it? That’s probably the main driver for most of us, myself included — it’s been beating me up pretty good lately too, actually. We all have a right to survival, so there’s a level of selfishness that is justifiable. And yet, obviously, if that’s still our focus even after our needs are met, when we’ve actually achieved “enough,” then there’s something else going on.

I look at the abuses that crashed our economy, and I can’t help but think that simple fear for survival couldn’t be the motivation. Though it could very well be that “broken” people seek that kind of power because of their “broken-ness,” as a way to feel safe or some other compensation. I’m no psychologist, though — it would be presumptuous for me to assert this.

But dragging this back to the personal level — no matter how messed up the world appears to be, if we are in fact responsible for our lives, and can shape them by acknowledging and owning that power, then it’s still on us to make lives for ourselves that rise above the background noise of fear and the other negative influences that threaten to drag us down with it.

I’m not going to call it easy, but I don’t think we have a choice really, do we?

Appreciate the visit, Sarah.

— Daniel


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