Dividing by Zero

In my seventeen years, I’ve learned a lot about Life. I know so much that I’d like to share my discoveries before my expiration.

Yes, that’s egoism, arrogance, pick your synonym; but so is writing my opinions in a school newspaper. Doing that has the implicit assertion that my opinions are necessarily deserving of an audience and of their own, special column.

What if I said that reading this is also egoistic? Surely you, the reader, desire some sort of positive benefit from this piece. Maybe you want to learn something; maybe you think this is a nice way to kill time. Maybe you want to be made happy, in a sort of 4-minute hitchhike to the highlands of Tibet or Armenia.

Whatever it is, I think it can be reduced to egoism. The word does have a negative connotation to it, so let’s flush it away and call it “self-appreciation” in our never-ending quest to be politically correct.

And this leads me to the thesis of my discoveries. We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people aren’t going to die because most people aren’t going to be born. And we, as the lucky few who can experience the reality of the universe, should be humbled by the sheer vastness of the cosmic stage where we play out our short dramas: on a floating dust particle not lost, but misunderstood. Everything humanity has ever known — all the empires, wars, literature, music, wealth, love, suffering — has all happened in this corner of the Milky Way — our corner.

Yet we live our lives in indifference to the fact that we are in a cosmic bowling alley, vulnerable to not just our own evil, but also to the asteroids, gamma rays and space lizards with the right to bear arms.

But in our defense, I will say that accepting a materialistic philosophy is difficult, perhaps unsatisfying. I respect religion and spirituality for the hope they inspire. Looking up at the stars or peering down a microscope, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of awe and humility. If only we could model ourselves to escape our daily dramas and partake in that larger, cosmic mystery. If only we could stop our additions and subtractions and take on larger challenges, like dividing by zero. Who said it’s not allowed? With an open mind and the freedom to ask questions, anything is possible.