I told Jack that I was thinking about becoming a hermit. But Jack told me that "hermit" is just another way of saying "loser". In America if you describe yourself as a hermit, you have admitted that you cannot succeed in society and have given up; you are a loser. This is Jack-speak, a wonderful black and white language where everything is easily defined into two categories: Mine, which is right, and Theirs, which is wrong.
There are no individuals anymore, they have all joined special individualists' groups for writers and thinkers. How do you get original thought out of a think-tank?
This is the way losers talk, bashing the system because they can't succeed in it. I walk on the periphery and watch as everyone runs in circles in the middle. I like to think this way because it makes me feel above the fray, it makes me feel superior, when in every other way I am perceived as the loser. I have no money, I have no power, I have no voice - very few people ask my opinion. This has its benefits, I'm hardly ever wrong.
Some say I am just scared, Jack says I'm lazy; I want to tell them that I have just realized that all this isn't worth it, that we are just spinning our wheels and that in the end we are all dust motes wiped up by the karmic rag. I don't, though, because someone might ask me to explain myself and while that is one hell of a pithy rejoinder, I'm not quite sure what it means.
I have a vague perception of what I call "my universe", and surrounding that perception is a careful series of defenses that I use to protect it from outside comprehension, and thus critique. I hate being criticized, which is why I rarely do anything.
The central tenet of my philosophy, which can be told with no fear of anyone ever understanding said philosophy, is that eventually everyone on the planet will come to the same conclusion at the same time and we will finally be able to live in peace. Unfortunately, at that very instant life, as we know it, will end. We will all simply cease to be.
For the time being I am the only person on the planet that knows what this conclusion is, and let me tell you it is no easy burden to bear. Every day I read the paper and watch TV and laugh to myself as everyone flounders about seeking pleasure, satisfaction and righteousness while blissful harmonies resonate in my brain alone. Sadly, being thus occupied affords me little income.
Part of the problem with the world that I've noticed revolves around religion, although religions merely manifest flaws in individuals so they really can't be blamed, they also serve to justify inflexibility which makes them susceptible to my attack. See, I once thought that we could have one true religion that would allow everyone to live in peace. This delightfully naive way of thinking was shattered when I began to imagine how this religion would coalesce.
I examined how other religions were formed, and found they primarily grew out of the teachings of one dynamic personality, and that person was ultimately deified, whether they wanted to be or not. Once they were gone the teachings of these leaders were made sacrosanct and as the times changed the true meaning of their words was debated endlessly. This, and the competition of already existing religions, often produced conflict.
Jack says my thinking is simplistic, and he may be right, afterall, he goes to work every day, I just watch the clouds.
Now, I'm not going to say whether conflict is "good" or "bad", it’s not my place to make such objective decisions. Yet, if one were to stumble upon the true religion that was going to bring peace to the planet, I figured this religion would arrive without such conflict. How could that be, you might ask. How could a new religion simply settle on the planet without arousing any suspicion? There's already an abundance of competition - competition that has been around for a long long time - and I'm certain that they wouldn't take kindly to being told they were wrong all these years.
This is where I had to use my imagination, your imagination goes to strange places when you aren't worried about bus schedules.
The only way everyone on the planet would agree on something would be if they all thought of it at the same time. Putting aside the implausibility of such an occurrence for a moment, think about what would result if it did happen. People being people, naturally different from each other in countless beautiful ways, they would never be able to relate to one another the meaning of what they had just thought. Everyone would try to explain it differently and in the end we would have the same old conflict.
Which is why, to maintain the perfection of that moment, the world would have to end. Unlikely, yes, but more pleasant than the prospect of nuclear annihilation.
We can either think the world is going to end after a long stretch of destruction and decay, or we can think that we are all striving towards a perfection we cannot comprehend. Either way, I'm still going to have to get a job.
Jack asks me what I do all day. I tell him I contemplate the infinite. It's not exactly a laugh, but his response is closer to a laugh than anything else.
If the universe is expanding because of some primordial explosion, and if this expansion will ultimately reach its end - well, then won't the universe begin to contract. All the matter that went hurtling through space after the Big Bang will, at the bequest of gravity, come crashing back into itself until it reaches such a density that another Big Bang is the result.
I ask you - How long has this been going on? Expansion, contraction, expansion, contraction - we might be on one ride out of a million, and each ride takes billions, trillions of years. We'd need Carl Sagan to do the math.
I wonder if this thought should make me feel infinitesimal or dramatically important - I waver between the two. From the viewpoint of the expanding universe, not just myself, but the entire human population past and present is nothing but a blink of the eye. Yet, if this is the only moment in time where that blink was discerned, that is, the only moment during countless expansions and contractions when a being was capable of acknowledging and pondering this mysterious universe, well, then we humans have an important responsibility.
That responsibility is either more or less important than deciding which long distance carrier to use, I'm not sure which. Jack tells me it doesn't matter if the universe is expanding as long as your personal debt isn't. He says the cafe on the corner is hiring. Jack has a point.