We’re not so very special, You and I.

We people take ourselves way too seriously. We think too little and act too much. We listen too little and speak too much, yet never truly say what we want to say. We split ourselves up into personalities to fit into the roles we are expected to play – each person being just a pathetic semblance of our true self. In school, it’s the obedient Oswald, in college, it’s the studious Steve, in office it’s the hard-working Harold, at home it’s the angry Adam. In all the hustle and bustle of juggling between these persona, we have forgotten that we are greater than the sum of these fractions of our individuality. What we need is to take a step backwards and ask ourselves “Where the hell did I come from and where am I going?”

Think for a moment about the time when you were a kid – when you still had the ability to marvel at the bulge of a water drop, or the air brushing past your hair, or the sunlight streaming in through the window, exposing a million fluttering dust particles floating aimlessly in space. Think for a moment about the time before you were even conceived in your mother’s womb. Or the time before your parents. Think of all the people who have lived throughout history whom you never had the chance of knowing. Think about the Neanderthal and the Australopithecus whose main concerns were how to survive the day without starving or being eaten alive and not what I should wear to impress that hot chick who smiled at me yesterday. Think of the mighty reptilian dinosaurs who roamed freely through the planet before a renegade meteor sealed their fate. The very place you are sitting at right now might have once witnessed an epic territorial dispute between a stegosaurus and a tyrannosaur. Think about the first photosynthetic organisms – the prokaryotes – who gave off oxygen as a waste product, releasing it freely into the atmosphere and making evolution of advanced life possible. You owe your existence to these tiny single-celled beings who have survived for fifty million of your lifetimes. Think about the time after you are gone. Your first death. You still continue to live in the memories of your loved ones. Time passes, they do their deeds, meet their ends much like you met yours. The last person to have any memory of you dies. This is your second death. From now on, no one knows of your existence. You become a mere statistic for the books – Six million died in India in year 2078. Without you, the figure would have been one shy of six million.

If we really are this insignificant in the grand scheme of things, what really is the point of living at all? Why not just put a bullet through the head and vanish without causing as much as a flicker in the grandiosity of the universe? We wouldn’t be wrong in thinking so – we do matter very little and our presence or absence hardly causes a ripple in the cosmic ocean. But consider the alternative. Since none of our actions are going to have any far-reaching consequences, we are free to do anything we want! Performed badly in exams? Girlfriend ditched you in favor of someone else? Think your life is ruined? In another billion years, the Sun will become too hot for liquid water to exist on Earth. That’s when life will be ruined. Worried about whether or not you made a good impression in last night’s party? Guess what, there will be no more parties to attend when the Andromeda galaxy rams into our Milky Way in another 4 billion years.

Once we can stop being so stuck inside our heads all the time and look – truly look – at the world as it exists outside the self-centered pseudoworld created by our mind, we cannot help but look back and laugh, “Those were my concerns and worries?”

Peering deeply into space might just become my new favorite pastime! 🙂

i2s4D

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Atheism in the land of a thousand Gods

Having been raised in a devout Hindu household, I never had the courage or the desire to think or question my beliefs. I just performed whatever religious liturgy was expected of me, lest I end up offending one of the innumerable gods of Hinduism and be stuck forever in the cycle of life and death. Yikes! What could have transpired in the life of this hopelessly brainwashed religious retard that made him question and ultimately renounce his religion? I would love to look back on the past year of my life and pinpoint at one moment of sudden clarity and epiphany where I stepped out of the self-constricting bubble of religion and let the light of science and knowledge wash over me and transform me. The truth is, it was more of gradual change involving several events like death of a close relative, exposure to people from other religions besides my own, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (being forced to follow a religion from birth is not much different than decantation in the World State) and liberal amount of meditation and introspection.

To renounce something, you first have to understand it thoroughly. All religions, despite their proclaimed differences, when distilled down to their bare essence, can be broken down into three components.

  • God
  • Self
  • Rituals connecting the two

God

The coupling between god and religion is so strong, it’s impossible to think of one without dragging in the other. But do god and religion really need to be bundled together this tightly? I sincerely want to believe that there is a force more powerful and knowledgeable than an individual that primarily exists to guide him. Perhaps this force is just my own subconscious mind, perhaps it is the collective intelligence of mankind in a “By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet” sort of way. I cannot be sure and, at this point, have no desire to pursue this question any further. I am happy being an agnostic atheist. What I am sure of is that, even in gnosticism, I wouldn’t need no stinkin’ religion attached to my idea of god.

Self

If you look at Self from a religious perspective, your only purpose is to praise and worship the lord of your religion in hopes of seeking a place in heaven/enlightenment/liberation from life and death cycle. So, once you become an atheist and are no longer bound to submit to the will of the Almighty, what is your purpose? This is not an easy question and the difficulty of finding an answer is perhaps the reason why religion was invented in the first place – a clear cut answer to a difficult question that requires nothing more than your silent obedience. I subscribe to the philosophy that life is inherently meaningless. You are free to add whatever meaning you see fit.

Rituals connecting the two

If we do away with the worshipping aspect of a religion, they all preach the same message. From Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, “it’s nothing very special. Uh, try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.” I will gladly stand side by side with a religious person who is trying to do some good, but please spare me the kneel-before-the-lord-or-suffer-eternally-in-hell chicanery. Religious people have chosen to live by a protocol made by others. I have simply made my own protocol.