Friday, 18 April 2014

10 Reminders of our Brutal Universe

In the middle of all the busyness of life and the shiny happy messages coming from pulpits and TVs, I'm often shattered out of my reverie by things that remind me of the cold, brutal universe that we live in. Here are my top ten.

10. Clouds
They've been forming, moving, and dropping rain on the planet for billions of years. After I die they will keep doing it as though I never existed. Add to this item: oceans and old trees.

9. Sunrises
They look beautiful some days. But then I remember that one day the sun will go nova and completely obliterate our planet and all evidence that I ever existed. It's like a daily reminder of impending doom.

8. Sunsets
Just when I find my way home after a day at work I see the great fireball in the sky shining warmly back at me, biding its time until it's ready to strike. See #9.

7. Ecclesiastes 9:10
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going." Cheery.

6. Parasitic worms
These lovely creatures are doing the same thing we are. They look for food and shelter. Some of them don't have to look for mates to help the species along so they have one less item on their checklist. Still, their quest for survival in our bodies has no regard for us at all. Kind of like the way we humans have treated the planet.

5. Cancer
Even when human medical science has found solutions and preventions for so many ailments that took billions of us to the grave, the very reward of survival - to get old peacefully - comes with the ever-increasing risk of cancer. And if we ever cure cancer? What the hell is the killer after that?

4. Deep time
The universe is old. Very old. Older than the second-oldest thing ever. On the other hand, human civilisation is but a few thousand years old. We are teeny and tiny by comparison.

3. Chess
I like playing chess. I like the idea of playing chess. I am, however, terrible at chess. Why on earth do I enjoy something I'm so clearly bad at? How did the human psyche develop this feature?

2. Children
We allocate years of emotional effort into them. We love them and nurture them. And then they watch us die. Don't get me wrong; I love my kids even though they remind me of my own mortality.

1. Faith
Somehow we have the tendency to believe things to be true, even though we have no evidence to prove or disprove them. They are convictions deep in our minds of something beyond this world, but it's always something that stubbornly resists the very logic of proof. Faith itself is not always a comfort, but a reminder that there are some things that I will never know for sure.

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