Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Assholes, ducklings and the end of the universe

Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Image/Flickr

The universe is dying.

I mean, there's probably a few billion years before lights out, but still. The universe may or may not be endless and infinite, but it's definitely not eternal. 

And the scientists are pretty poetic about it.

From an article posted on NPR.org:

"The stars die, like a fire dies, and then you have embers left over that then glow but eventually cool down. And the fire just goes out." - Joe Liske of the University of Hamburg.

And this ...

"The universe has basically sat down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze," - Simon Driver, professor at the University of Western Australia.

I found this news kind of comforting.

Not in the I-want-to-end-it-all sense (though, come on, that comfy sofa, a cozy blanket and nice long nap seem pretty appealing, right?)

But that our existence will run its course and then it will be over. 

I've been feeling a bit cynical lately. I don't much like that. 

My tolerance for humanity – for the man honking his horn and waving his hand at me because I didn't accelerate fast enough when the light turned green or the self-righteous woman who can't see her own faults through the haze of her anger and self-pity berating my friend unjustly or the passive-aggressive commentary about how much my dog barks or the girls bickering over all the little whatevers (why does it matter who goes through the door first? Whose story is read first? Who sits on the potty first?) – they all just make me want to close my eyes and plug my ears. Find a nice sofa, etc.

The ugliness here. I just can't deal with it. And it's everywhere it seems. 

And it's in me, too. I know that. Nobody is immune to that bitterness. To being selfish over being selfless. I don't always let the car pull out in front of mine. Or suppress the urge to roll my eyes when the person in front of me at the checkout has endless transactional questions. I don't feel especially patient anymore with the people who comment about how different my daughters look from each other – the one with the light hair and the one with the dark hair – like somehow they're not really sisters. 

I don't mean to be an asshole. I'm sure most people don't mean to be. 

And we don't start out our lives being assholes. We're just really, really hungry. Or, really, really tired. Or we really, really need our diapers changed. Or really, really want to be cuddled. And aside from the diaper thing, probably most of our assholey behavior* stems from all those holdovers from infanthood.

I try to remind myself about this when people disappoint me. Sometimes I forget to remind myself. I've been forgetting a lot recently.

But then I heard this news about the universe and all the sudden I feel a little better about things. 

Let me explain.

Part of my concerns about how shitty we are to each other is the fact that we've apparently been shitty to each other since the beginning of time and I can't really foresee a time when we are going to stop being shitty to each other. I mean honestly. We'll chip away at the walls we've built in one place while erecting them in another. History is a broken record, right?

But eventually the record player will just stop working. 

Everything that was and everything that is will flicker away into the void and that's that. 

If you're waiting for the uplifting part of this whole thing, here it is: It won't be like this forever.**

We'll all be Ra's al Ghuled and the next universe to start up will have a clean slate. I'm a little shaky on my physics, but I'm pretty sure that's how all that works.

This thought is kind of freeing, right? (I mean, end of existence aside). 

At least it was reassuring to me. It allows me to shake off the oppressive chains of infinite assholery and just be human. To stop worrying so much about my sins and the sins of all mankind past, present and future and work on being better today than I was yesterday. 

It won't be like this forever. So we just have to grab onto those little bits of joy and let that be the stuff that fills our souls. The more we do that – the more we cuddle our inner infant – the better we'll be to each other, right?

I've been watching season two of "Louie," and last night I came to the episode where Louie goes to Afghanistan as part of a USO tour. Unbeknownst to Louie his 5 year old stashes one of her class ducklings in his luggage. In a note, she tells her dad the duckling is meant to keep him safe. And this happens:



The lesson here: We all just need to keep an eye out for ducklings.

* Side story about literal assholey behavior: So, Lily's developed this odd habit of sticking her hands down the back of her shorts. I'm not sure what she's doing down there, but I've asked her not to do it in public. "It's not a problem for you to stick your hands down your pants in private – just make sure to wash them after. But it's impolite to stick them down your pants in public," I've told her. Multiple times. So we're in Ikea last week waiting in line at the checkout. Lily is bored and just wants some frozen yogurt. Her hands are down her pants again. "Lily, you need to take your hands out of your pants." I tell her. "Why?" she asks. "Because we're in the middle of Ikea and it's not polite to have your hands down your pants in the middle of Ikea," I tell her. At which points she whips her hands out of her pants and covers my face with them, giggling maniacally. I swat her hands away and am about to correct her about the stink palming and she interrupts me. "Mom! Can I have ice cream?" So that happened. She go the FroYo. Because I'm a pushover.

** For those of you who are concerned about the state of my spiritual life and are ready to remind me of the glories of heaven, in this scenario I'm writing about our Earthly existence. The possibility of a heavenly reunion with our many deceased cats is a subject for another day.

*** Before I forget. If you happen to be in the York area at 7 p.m. Aug. 28, I'll be reading this short story at the Agriculture and Industry Museum. It won second place in the fiction category of YorkFest's adult literary competition. So while I might never find an agent who will help me publish that novel I wrote, when it comes to semi-obscure local writing competitions, well, I'm moving up in the world. Not that it matters, you know. What with the universe dying and all.

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