Every once in a while, I am struck by my own insignificance — often late at night as I am lying in my bed and looking through the window at the twinkling stars above.
I know we all have moments like those, when we sense that nothing really matters and that if the planet were to explode, we would not be missed by the rest of the universe.
Indeed, human life taken at face value, without any proof or hope of spiritual succession, seems unfair for both rich and poor. How cruel it seems that we should have the ability to ponder the nature of our existence while knowing that we are doomed to extinction individually and collectively. Hey, thanks for nothing, eh.
It seems we are cursed by some genetic fluke that allowed us to reason while the rest of the animal kingdom carries on blissfully unaware of its mortality.
No doubt, early man, i.e. the Sumarians, had these thoughts, too, and some wise people felt that humans needed a sense of divine purpose if civilization were to develop.
Still, despite the common threads found in most spiritual schools of thought (i.e. Thou shalt not kill) that were created to give us hope that there is something beyond death’s doorway, humans have too often behaved as if nothing really matters at all and that there are no spiritual consequences for our actions.
(Damn coincidences: “What Is Life” by George Harrison just started playing on the radio)
Take the myriad wars in human history, for example.
And take the individual acts of murder that happen around the world every day. I’m thinking of one in particular that occurred in Montreal last week: a woman was killed and her son was abducted by the father, who was subsequently captured by police. We have to call him a suspect in the woman’s death at this point, but news reports say he and the woman had a rocky relationship, with a lot of quarreling witnessed by several people. The man was fairly well known for his film work, so the case is drawing a lot of media attention.
I’m guessing that in most cases of murder, the killers are not thinking about spiritual consequences, and that if asked, they would express nihilistic points of view: Nothing matters. All life is doomed to die along with the planet that hosts it, and it won’t be missed by anyone or anything afterward. No god, no heaven, no hell, no consequences afterward for life’s actions. Just oblivion.
Who asked for this? I didn’t ask to be born, the killer might say angrily. Why the hell couldn’t I have remained unborn?
I thought about these things last night, and I wondered about people like North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Does he believe in God and spiritual consequences? Or does he believe that nothing really matters in the grand scheme of things, and that starting a war would be irrelevant to the rest of the universe? Could he, in a moment of rage similar to the one experienced by a man who murders his wife, kill millions of people?
It seems to me we have entered an age where more and more people are rejecting spirituality and religions and the karma they espouse — and I wonder if that is why there seems to be so many more individual acts of violence in the world today.
Ultimately, all of man’s accomplishments and failures on planet Earth will be irrelevant, I told myself as I started to fall asleep last night.
But I prayed to the force that animates the universe, anyway, as I do most days of my life.
Such is my curse: to believe, yet to doubt.
Photo: Painting called The Nihilist, by Paul Merwart (1855-1902).