The thing about being human is that we think that because we feel so much, perhaps, then, just perhaps, we are more than animals. More than highly-evolved apes, crawled down from the trees to walk on our feet.
I don’t why our desire to feel special and insignificant is so powerful, or why the idea of being a mere animal, just like all the other creatures in the kingdom, undifferentiated, is so abhorrent. I think that’s also why we hate death; because it reminds us we are just organisms, after all, meat and bones just like the pork and beef some of us eat. It is why we don’t like to think about wars, or genocides, natural disasters, starvation—all those things challenge the idea that our small lives, which are the whole universe to ourselves, are more than just the scurrying of ants across a lump of rock in space.
Maybe we are more what we are; and maybe we are not. It doesn’t really matter. Time will pass, our lives will go on. It’s a constant continuum, you see. Each second, the moment it arrives, vanishes, to be replaced by another, which disappears just as quickly, on and on, a trillion billion snapshots of sights and thoughts and sounds and feelings, together forming a life, like individual pictures, which, when flipped, form moving scenes. In the moment, the passing seconds may seem banal, but at the point of death, when looked upon as a whole, the whole business seems quite miraculous, beautiful enough to bring tears to your eyes.
And that’s it, isn’t it? Sometimes, I cry, simply because I feel this incredible joy and melancholy at being alive, and human. Though the full sum of human art—all the books, the films and the paintings, created by millions who struggled with the business of living just like you and I—is most likely insignificant on cosmic scale, to me, they symbolise a kind of heroism, whereby prisoners, stuck in the cells of life, make the best of the situation by, say, singing to themselves, or scratching drawings on the walls.
Art, in essence, allows us to cope. Despite the abyss, and the emptiness, on the artists toil, working quietly away, busy as ants, to create works of beauty, and bring smiles to faces, balm to souls, and most of all, to comfort and amuse themselves.
There’s just something inexplicably lovely about it. Behind every film, every book, every cartoon you watched as a child, every piece of artwork, every brochure, every advertisement, was a person, or perhaps many people, who put their time and blood and sweat into creating something. This same principle applies to everything in society. All the roads, the bridges, the Internet, the telephone, the laptop, the cars, almost everything you own and watch and use, has been made by human hands and minds, the whole lot a billion fireworks shooting off from that first great spark: the moment we made fire, and man, with flames reflected in his eyes, felt wonder and joy leap in his breast.
From wonder comes everything. Nothing good that was created throughout history came from a place of a misery. It was all joy. Joy of discovery, joy of imagination, joy of beauty, joy of complexity—and you and I, we are part of it, this never-ending stream of doing and being, and loving and laughing. While much grief and despair attends being human, there is also such happiness and beauty in life that it’s almost, ironically, enough to make you cry.
And, sooner or later, the final nail on the coffin, shriveling smiles and tarnishing what was once bright, it has to end. Eventually, life ends, and this is one of the reasons why, even in my rare moments of laughter, my heart is still crying. Even if all the happiness possible in the world were to fall into my lap, right this instant, every second a golden swipe of eternity, some part of me, deep down, would nevertheless be sobbing all the harder in the knowledge that it would have to, one day, end. Your fingers touch the sparkling, sun-lit water, knowing they can never hold onto it. You can only gaze and bask in the beauty, and then watch as the sun sets, and the water grows dull once more.
Love, too. They say love is everything, and it is, the single, shining thread weaving its way through all that is, keeping it all together. To be happy, is to love. When you are happy, you are loving life, you are loving what you are doing, you are loving the people around you, or the world, nature, everything. Yet death will once day snatch away all your loves, the sun sinking out of the sky to be supplanted by its pale and weak sister, the moon. It will take your loved ones, your passions, take away the world, the universe, and you can’t fight against it. It is the way of things.
Which is why it is good to remember that the people who spring up after you, and everyone who exists right this instant, are you, only you can experience life one at a time. In fact, everyone throughout history has been you—you were the prison who gasped and died in a Holocaust Chamber, you were the peasant and the Empress, the killed and the killer, the cursed and the blessed. They were all you. Everyone is you; the self is an illusion, a tiny pinprick hole in the paper of life, through which shines the light of consciousness. You are the light. You, and you, and you, and us, and you; we’re all the light. Even, I believe, the animals, from the tiniest tadpole who experiences the world in flashes of light and dark, to the great otherworldly beings in outer-space, who gurgle through wormholes and can see the very pulsations of time itself, are you, too. Are me. Are us.
In that sense, there is no nothing to be truly afraid of, not in life, not in the world, not in the universe and beyond. Everything is you, and when the you that you are now dies, you will still live on, in everything else, and the force behind the entire affair is eternal, a kind of infinite flourishing. So as one tiny offshoot of that flourishing, well, flourish! Dance, sing, laugh, work, live, suffer, cry, die, exulting in every second of consciousness, as you were meant to—as you, as we, as I, as us, as everything, were meant to.