There are certain truths we would all accept if only we allowed ourselves the time to consider them. The universe is likely infinite and unknowable. The gods are either cruel, indifferent or imagined. Our lives are fleeting and ultimately inconsequential, and when the sun swells into a giant ageing orb and envelops the earth, all of our worries, our insecurities, our accolades, our statues and any remaining mundane evidence of our existence will be obliterated. One can hardly be blamed for not wanting to mull over such things.
However, if you do decide to take a moment to ponder the pointlessness of your life, you may find yourself surprisingly cheered.
After all, what does it matter that you didn’t complete your physics degree because you couldn't stand the way the mathematics professor pronounced ‘parabola’? Your knowledge about the Second Law of Thermodynamics will neither hasten nor prevent the heat death of the universe. It isn’t a problem, really, that your neighbour forgot to water your plants while you were away on holiday. At least, not when you consider the ultimate impermanence of all biological life on earth. Does it really matter that the man on the bus with the nice haircut, the chiseled jaw and sharp suit seemed to look straight through you as you stepped aboard? Not when you consider that he, like you, is just another bundle of self-replicating copies of DNA, intent on nothing more or less noble than ensuring its own propagation and survival.
In the face of such stupefying inconsequentiality, there is really only one sensible way to respond.
It’s spring - can you smell it?
There’s a wisteria vine growing up your neighbour’s adjoining wall, and the light breeze has caught its perfume and carried it to you. The sky - did you ever notice how its hue transitions from that deep, impenetrable blue in the centre, to a translucent cornflower at the horizon’s edge?
Your briefcase is set beside you, the day’s tasks and duties encased within it like arthritic bones in tired flesh.
But on the pavement beside the case, an ant carries a single crumb back to its nest.
You will put your keys into the ignition, you will slide your second hand Toyota Prius from the drive with all the enthusiastic conviction of Clag glue. But, ten minutes later, stopped at the intersection that takes an eternity, you will notice how the sunlight refracts through your dusty windows, throwing a shimmery golden haze onto the peeling leather of your steering wheel.
And in bed, that night, with your hand on his chest, you will feel the fragile rhythm of the tissues in his heart. Muscle cells that somehow coalesced into a single beating organ, keeping him alive; another fortunate, fallible flicker of consciousness. Like you.
There will be many aggravating days ahead. Many boring conversations, many irritating altercations, many dreams unfulfilled. And your small life will wane and flicker into nothingness, like all the other lives there ever were before you. But for now, the moon is a silver sickle, its rays lingering on his aquiline features as he breathes quietly next to you. His body is warm. There is a cricket calling softly in the garden. And the earth continues turning, a blue and green mote of dust, in the vast and impenetrable void.