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The Universe or Nothing

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.

End

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Daniel

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.

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