Cherish Your Time as an Individual

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be manipulated and transferred. Every piece of us is as old as the universe, though the particular arrangement of matter in you does not even date back a year: each atom in our bodies is replaced every year. You undoubtedly have an atom that is part of your body that was part of someone else’s body at some point.

Perhaps we all started as one energy and will all coalesce into one energy again some day, where negativity will cease, and we will exist eternally as one in nirvana. (“Life is a waterfall, we’re one in the river and we’re one again after the fall.” -System of a Down)

In the grand scheme of things, our time on earth is short. Some people take this to mean it is insignificant. They say, we are all one, and being an individual is an illusion. And that may be true. But don’t you think there is a point of us being an individual, for however short it may be?

What I’m saying is, if we exist for the rest of eternity as one energy, then we should cherish this short opportunity to be an individual. It is a stress on our being, or our collective being to be an individual, but that makes me think there is much to gain.

Exercise is stress that makes us stronger. Trials and tribulations grow us. The pressure of academics makes us smarter. Could the stress of being an individual for 80 years make each one of us a stronger puzzle piece, so that when we all finally come together to form the puzzle, the entire puzzle is stronger?

So yes, if you hurt others you are just hurting yourself in a sense. But that does not mean you should be a slave to others either. Use this opportunity as an individual to see what can be accomplished by one specific piece of the universe. In the end, anything you gain individually will be gained by all of humanity.


Don’t Fear the Light: Openness vs. Blind Faith

I believe it was Carlsbad Caverns that my family toured when I was going into fourth grade. We were taken deep beneath the earth’s surface, and guided into a large domed cave within the natural underground tunnels. The tour guide told us to put our hand 12 inches in front of our face, and he turned off the flashlight. “Can you see the outline of your hand?” he asked. We all could–or so we thought. There was no light at this depth in these caves detectable by the human eye, and the outline we thought we saw was simply a construction of our brain. A single match was then lit, flooding the ballroom sized cavern with enough light to see every stalactite and stalagmite in wonderful detail.

It seems likely that a humans’ aversion to new ideas is rooted in evolution. If what you have been doing has always worked for survival, changing it could be quite dangerous. Why let someone convince you to go out on a limb that could snap, instead of continuing practices that have always kept you alive? It is understandable that our survival instincts tell us to fear change, and support the status quo. If there were berries and game here last year, there will probably be next year as well.

But in evolution danger lies in too homogeneous a species. There is still much mystery surrounding why, but about 70,000 years ago the human population of earth “bottlenecked” and was reduced to somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 individuals. Humans were extremely endangered and essentially almost went extinct. For the people living before the event or series of events or long-term change, there was not much reason to change what had worked for survival. But for some reason, a bunch of humans died off, and only a small group survived.

I don’t know why that group survived. It could have been a genetic variation, or special skills one group possessed, or perhaps, the ability to adapt. While many other humans could not break with tradition in terms of “what has always worked”, maybe a small group was able to reassess their method of survival, and change it in order to survive in the new environment. Whether the new environment was caused by climate, predators, wars, disease, famine, or aliens hardly matters. What matters is the ability to predict upheaval, and properly prepare for that change.

70,000 years ago there were probably a lot of people that knew something was happening, but did not know what to do about it. They probably continued living the only life they knew, and died because of it. There were probably also people who did not see any change coming, and failed to prepare out of ignorance. Others might have continued hunting the hypothetically disappearing game until the very last one was eaten, and then starved, refusing to believe that their way of life could possibly change.

Some humans might have seen a change coming, but prepared for the wrong change, or predicted an event that never came to fruition. But what we know is that there were a select few who were either lucky, or smart. I like to think that the survivors were the ones who were not afraid of the light. It seems that people who were the most open to learning, who could consider new ideas, and adapt to their environment would be most suited to survive, and I don’t think that has changed.

This does not mean any new idea should be seized upon and believed wholeheartedly without proper scrutiny; some of those early humans died because they saw the wrong change coming. But equally detrimental was refusing to see the light, and therefore not adjusting reactions to escalating dangers. The ultimate survival skills lie in those who can objectively and rationally consider risks and rewards. Shutting out a new idea is just as likely to end negatively as blind faith in a new idea, or being convinced that the oldest idea is novel.

Moving into the twentieth century, what humans must do to survive is be vigilant and logical. There are those who stand on their front porch and watch as a tsunami rolls in, and there are those who run to the top of mountains to be rescued by aliens who never show. We want to avoid each category. We should learn about the tsunami and assess the weather report: the risk to an area, the scope and magnitude, and the timing. But there’s no harm in hearing out the would be extraterrestrial pilgrims either; just beware of seeing something where there is nothing. Often your instincts will be correct, and there will be no facts behind the theory. However it does not hurt to listen and objectively consider data, you may be surprised by the result and learn things that seem so obvious in hindsight.

Sometimes we are more comfortable in the dark, imagining our hand is visible, than seeing our real environment illuminated. In a place so dark, it does not take much light to see your true surroundings. Don’t continue to imagine that you see your hand in the dark. Be brave, and light the match; it will illuminate things you never knew were there.

Finding Things to be Stressed About

Are humans doomed to be stressed about something? Will we just find something to be stressed about, even when pretty much everything is going fine? First world problems: this kind of gets to the same point, we are just finding problems in our lives. As the bigger problems get solved, we move onto the smaller ones, until finally I get stressed that the BBC forgot to give me mashed potatoes with my cod (that was my lapse last week).

To be fair some people have legitimate reason to be stressed out. But I am talking about people who eat enough, have a stable source of income, shelter, clothing, free time, and recreation. I’m not talking about people who are on the verge of losing their house, or need to find money for food, or are legitimately concerned that a drone is going to bomb them. That is real stress.

But I am wondering if it feels the same to us. Would we feel just as stressed worrying about where our next meal is coming from as studying for a final?

I go back to evolution a lot, because I am really interested in human origins and species growth. It makes sense to me that at some time if you were not stressed, you were as good as dead. 10,000 years ago we should have been stressed about where the next meal was coming from, or we would starve and be unable to pass on our genes. We were stressed about the sounds that go bump in the night, because the people that paid those sounds no heed woke up dead—or rather didn’t wake up.

But then some of us get to this point where we don’t really have much to be stressed out about, and we still are, maybe because we are modern people living inside caveman bodies. I really had no stress in February when I was on a Caribbean cruise… go figure. Part of this was probably not watching the news all week, my world was so peaceful. But sometimes I would still find myself making up scenarios to be stressed about: what if I’m taken while visiting an island and Liam Neeson can’t save me!

It could happen, but the chances are minuscule, and thinking about something like that doesn’t solve the what-ifs anyway. So what’s the answer? I suppose my solution would be to set up a life where there is as little as possible to be realistically stressed about. If you create a community with like-minded people who solve problems in a similar way and share similar values, maybe that would actually reduce stress levels.

But there’s still that other piece of me that thinks no matter what we will be stressed. In my perfect little community, would it be the stress of group acceptance? That one is certainly linked to evolution, where rejection from the group meant certain death. So today, when people (especially teenagers) act like their lives are over because they have been snubbed by a friend, well maybe they just can’t help but let the caveman side of them take over: maybe they actually feel in their brains like survival is hopeless, being inextricably linked to group acceptance.

Don’t let me wonder alone! Tell me your thoughts on this!