So it’s five am and the drugs are finally wearing off enough that you could theoretically try and sleep but some guy is screaming in the alley and the dump trucks for the construction site next door have started picking up loads. The sun is rising into a humid and suffocating haze while the volume of the world has gradually risen into a horrifying background cacophony which you can no more ignore than you can the hum of the fridge or the whine of the television.
As you lay on the floor of your apartment feeling the the miles of atmosphere pressing you against the surface, the existential emptiness starts to set in. What does any of this matter? Why am I here? How did it come to this? Is there any purpose behind everything that happens or is it all just meaningless? Where am I going in life and what am I going to eat for dinner?
I can’t answer all your questions, but I can tell you how this mess got started. Everyone needs a good origin story right? So here’s yours. In the beginning, your reality was a churning inferno of impossible titanic energies compressed past infinities to nonsensical places where matter and meaning break down and time does not exist. From this fire, an expansion began. Over countless eons the material of your universe was stretched and pulled until it cooled down enough to begin behaving in new and interesting ways.
The gas scattered and the the sky turned transparent. Gravity began pulling simple elements together, stars shone, exploded, and scattered their ash from which new stars and new worlds could be recycled, these with yet more new properties. All meaningless sound and fury of course, silent fireworks occurring as a result of deterministic interactions between bits of matter. “Hey man don’t look give me that look. What? Are you expecting me to tell you a faerie farted your world into existence and your purpose is to have fun and experience things?” I say gesturing with a lit cigarette, casting ash particles adrift on the thick and stagnant air.
Flies orbit your trash can and crows buzz your apartment window as they dive and swoop through the alley beyond. The summer morning promises a long and oppressively hot day ahead, and while the idea of sleep grows more appealing by the minute, the misery of the environment precludes any possibility of actual rest. A meaningless eternity looms before and behind you, an infinite amount of not being, an abyss of entropic obliteration beneath a relentless and inescapable temporal millstone. Yeah I feel you, you want some sort of jury rigged existentialist platitude or a cigarette? Don’t break out the liquor until at least 8am, you’ll thank me later.
So anyway, on one of these worlds, maybe in a tidal pool or around a deep undersea vent, some of odd little bits of stardust started making more of themselves. They replicated, changed, evolved, and after a billion years of being left to cook under the light of the local sun, those little stardust machines started wearing clothes, sitting in traffic, going to work, paying taxes, fighting wars, writing callout posts on twitter, and laying in on the floor of their apartment feeling the sweat slowly glue them to the linoleum as the acid wears off one summer morning. Humans, what a curious result to get when you leave stardust to cook for four and a half billion years.
Not the answer you hoped for? What were you hoping for stardust? That there was some other part of you? some thing from outside that meaningless fire which made it all make sense? Which gave reason to all the pain and madness? As far as I know it, you aren’t going to find it out among your stars or at the bottom of a bottle. It’s not in an opium needle and it’s not lost among some unseen psychedelic peak, you scream into the abyss for some answer and the only response is the roar of deafening silence. Ugh now you and that guy in the alley are screaming and I haven’t even had my second Monster energy drink of the day.
Yeah of course nothing means anything and everything will be eroded down to nothingness by the sands of time, like, duh, have you not been paying attention? Drink some water and smoke some weed, you’ll feel better once your neurotransmitters finish rebalancing themselves. With some mounting despair, as if trying to negotiate with the stones of the world, you tell me, pleading, that this can’t be all to the universe, that there must be something else, that it something must happen to us when we die, that it must all mean something.
So what does it mean then? If there’s more to it, what is the more and where is it hiding? What are you, Stardust creature? I don’t mean your bones, I mean your soul. What is it made of? What does it taste like? If I grind it down into dust, what do I have? If I break it in half does it stop being you or is it still you? What is this you thing anyway? Does it actually exist or is it simply a story that stardust tells to itself? What does it mean to be yourself? What would it mean to be someone else? Does who you are serve you, and if not can you be someone different? What would that mean if it was possible? What would it mean if it was not?
Soul and stardust, symbol and substance, these are what human beings are made of. Biographies and blood, Tales and tissues, memories and muscles. A curious species indeed. So full of fire and energy, hatred and fury and love and a great deal of fantastic music. I’ve found you rather fascinating to study, even if you are at times a rather disquieting lot.
I have a bunch of mildly invasive questions I like to ask people to get to know them and I’m always trying to come up with new ones to see what catches someone’s interest and what will merely deflect them into a prearranged script. If you were a monster in a video game, what loot would you drop when killed? If instead of constellations, you had a sun, moon, and rising song, what would your sun song, moon song, and rising song be? What do your dreams taste like? How much space do you take up with your vibes? What is the part of you that you most treasure? What’s your greatest regret? Who is the person that you’ve most aspired to be, and if you’ve gotten to be them, has it been any fun? Who’s driving this bus and do they have any blow?
I smile sardonically at that last question and hand you a cup of coffee with only a few bits of ash floating on top. The heat rising off the pavement from the night before is already combining with that of the rising sun in a conspiracy to cook you alive, but somehow the ash laden and over-steeped black liquid has a certain reality to it which the night before left lacking. It tastes dark and bitter, and that seems correct.
Lets try again. You’re made of stardust, I’m made of stardust, we’re all trapped in this machine together.
The soul? What about it? Well, I suppose that’s as good a place to start as any.