You’re spiraling through the vast coldness of outer space at 1000 miles per hour, yet you can’t feel a thing. You’re snuggled deep into your blanket in a serene, dark room, and the only thing keeping you from hitting the ceiling with enough force to break your bones is gravity — a force you don’t really even understand. It’s the same thing that moves oceans and ensures the daylight will always follow the dark. We measure gravity and call it GRACE.
This universe you’re hurtling through? It’s bigger than your tiny brain can even compute. Your synapses simply aren’t evolved enough to fire in that way. It will remain forever out of reach: a quantifiable physical truth completely enshrouded in impenetrable mystery by a biological reality. What you do know, lying there under your blanket and listening to the sirens outside, is that scientists have only yesterday discovered a titanic structure in the early universe, the size of a million billion suns and about 11 billion years old. They call it Hyperion after one of the twelve Titan children of Gaia. Because mythology — storytelling — is the only way to even remotely capture how impossibly gigantic and ancient this galaxy proto-supercluster truly is.
And in your own galaxy, which contains about 30 billion planets, about 500 million of which could theoretically be home to life forms very like yourself, you exist. Why?
For no reason.
You were a coincidence — an incredible, perfect, miraculous coincidence. Of the 600 million sperm that could have fertilized that egg however many years ago, you alone made it. That single night in a lifetime of nights. Any other night, and it wouldn’t have been you. Hell, if your parents hadn’t met the day they did, or if one of the other 600 million sperm that formed them broke through that fallopian barrier, you wouldn’t be here. Someone else would be under this blanket, thinking about gravity.
The fact that you get to feel your newly shaved legs against freshly washed sheets, or the damp hair from your shower pressing into the pillow? That’s you winning the cosmic lottery. The fact that you get to listen to that annoying siren outside your window? Or the footsteps of your upstairs neighbor? Or that you get to worry about that presentation for work tomorrow? These are luxuries that millions of potential yous will never be able to experience.
You look over at your partner, who is sleeping beside you. They are also a coincidence, an indescribable concoction of star dust just like you, who never asked to be here but exists just the same. On this rock. Hurtling through space at 1000 miles an hour. In the same span of time that you do, a nanosecond in the history of the universe. How did you two even find each other?
Maybe you didn’t have a choice.
Neuroscience is dispensing with the idea of free will. A quarter-of-a-second distortion in time perception may be more responsible for our actions than any amount of self restraint or willpower. It could be that your very chemistry made it impossible for you not to be with this other person, who likewise found it scientifically impossible not to be with you. Your brains may have sought out each other without either of you even recognizing it. Why?
For no reason.
Possibly to procreate, an instinctive urge that floods your lizard brain with dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and other chemicals. Thanks to our abnormally big brains, we are conscious — perhaps accidentally. And that consciousness prompts us to rationalize these pleasure centers. We must do something with this trait, after all. Is there a god from whom these feelings flow? Are your souls connected through lifetimes? Is this person The One? No. But these pleasant ideas, spun out of ignorance and neurons, may be the most decadent coincidence of our biology.
By now your head is spinning, and your throat is closing because it’s all too much. These nighttime thoughts, this awareness of Everything. You reach out for reassurance and let your fingertips rest on your partner’s arm. And as you feel their warm skin against yours, you think about how you can never really touch anything because your subatomic particles will perpetually repel similar particles. You aren’t really touching them. And then you think about how 99.9999% of your body is actually empty space, and so even if you could touch them you’d only be connected to an infinitesimal percentage of their being.
And yet still, you get to be here, feeling all the things you are feeling, your brain firing like the Big Bang all over again. You are an accident, a fluke, a mistake of nature borne of millions of years of mistakes of nature before you. One day you will die, and the world will continue on without you in it, for as long or longer as it has existed before you. One day your energy will be repurposedfrom your decaying body to echo throughout space until the end of time.
But you are here now.
This is the beauty of infinite chaos. You are nothing and you are everything, at once subatomically connected to the universe and profoundly alone. You are not here for any Reason, except perhaps to appreciate with your weirdly large ape brain that every breath you take is a win against impossible odds, a win you would be foolish to squander.