You don’t matter to the universe.
You’ll never get cosmic signs to guide your choices (sorry, Ted Mosby). It’s not because you aren’t awesome – you are!1 – it’s that you really don’t even register on a universal scale. Frankly, you don’t even register on an Earthly scale, considering that no matter what you do, the Earth will continue spinning and, to quote Jeff Goldblum, “Life will find a way.”2
The universe is appallingly, unimaginably gigantic. We are one shockingly young fetus of a species on a rock floating in space, just trying to continue the little chemical processes that we call life. There are countless other rocks around trillions upon trillions of stars in an unknown hundreds of billions (or more) galaxies in the universe. And it’s not an entirely crackpot theory to suggest that there may be several universes.3
Meanwhile, our lives are counted – if we’re lucky – in decades, while the timescales of the universe are so great that even the entirety of human evolution from our common ancestor with apes is not a drop in the bucket. No matter what we do, stars will continue to be born and to die, and the universe will keep doing whatever it is that the universe does.4 Bottom line: We don’t matter, and we have barely been around long enough to even begin to realize that.
But this is fantastic news!
The dramatically huge scales of the universe and it’s disregard for you means that your time is worth the ultimate premium – TO YOU! Scarcity can add value to something otherwise mundane – it’s simple supply and demand. And while you may disagree, I find the ability to consciously experience the universe to be anything but mundane. I mean, in the universe, sex exists.
Nothing is more rare and precious to you than the time you spend alive. Even though you are tiny and your life is just one of an uncountable number on this planet alone, your life has incalculable value to you, because you need your consciousness to ascribe value to anything else. All other values are necessarily preceded by your consciousness. Without your consciousness, everything is worthless to you.
What does this mean for your daily life?
Being aware that you have so little time to enjoy the life you get to live should have two main effects:
- You know that your time is more valuable to you than anything else, so you don’t have to feel bad about spending it how you want to. You can be selfish! (“I”)
- You know that your neighbors and their opinions of you are also incredibly insignificant, so you don’t have to waste time making sure that they approve of you. You can be different! (“Vigilante”)
These liberating ideas are a large part of the base upon which the rest of a healthy philosophy is built. It is precisely because of the scarcity of your own consciousness in your own body that you must value your time – and those things and people which make it better – so highly. (And, conversely, why you must unapologetically rid yourself of anyone who is detracting from your life!)
It is because of that high value on your time that living your life selfishly makes sense. You can’t arrive at any other conclusion without making the assumption that something else has more value to you than your life5 and your time, which are truly all you have – no objects, no people, no planets have any value to you without you being able to experience them!
For each of us, being selfish will mean different things. To you, it might mean spending as much time as possible with your children. It might mean seeing as much of the world as possible – or as much of the universe as possible. It might mean experiencing as wide an array of emotions or sensory stimuli as possible, trying to take in the universe as much as possible before it’s too late. It might mean making sure that you never live a minute in a world in which something you love is stifled – freedom, love, your significant other’s burning passion, your stamp collection, whatever. For me, it means spending as much time as possible learning about this universe with my beautiful fiancée and future child, which translates to a very high value on financial independence and early retirement.
What it usually doesn’t mean, without disregarding some of the truths above, is seeking as much comfort as possible. Comfort might be nice, at times, but it limits your experiences to just one – comfort! Unless nothing has higher value to you than Netflix and Snuggies, this is probably not the way to live your life without regret. So value your time and push yourself outside of your comfort zone!
It cannot mean seeking to accumulate wealth just to flash it to others. Wealth is a wonderful tool that, when used correctly, enables you to broaden your experiences. Misused, wealth comes to own you, just like Voldemort: What kind of life is it to spend your days in a cubicle, earning enough money to pay for a large property and a gardener, just so your neighbor might say “Nice lawn!” and forget about it the next minute? That time could have been spent climbing Mt. Fuji with your best friend, if only you didn’t have such a high mortgage, tax bill, and gardening bill to pay! The opportunity cost is too damn high, and that’s easy to see when you consider that your neighbors are no more significant than you. So let go of trying to impress others. Give fewer fucks: Impress yourself instead!
The sooner you accept your cosmic insignificance, the sooner you can truly accept the insanely high value you ought to place upon yourself. The universe won’t do it for you. So go live, be selfish, and be happy!
Note on the Basic Training series: These posts are essentially those which contain ideas that aren’t related directly to retirement accounts, student loans, managing money in a marriage, and the other usual topics, but are crucially important to The Vigilante Method and the pursuit of financial independence. These post are, at their core, about self reflection, strength, and happiness. Skip over these posts at your own risk!
- Maybe. Or you’re a FANT4STIC apologist. It really was that bad of a movie, and there’s no excuse for denying it.
- Jurassic Park reference. Shame on you for needing a footnote.
- MinutePhysics, aside from being a generally badass channel very much worth subscribing to, did an informative segment on parallel universes.
- Note that nobody knows what that “whatever” is, and whoever says they do should be automatically disqualified from the privilege of having your attention.
- Marvel has a character that literally does value something more than life. Read up on Thanos for an example of placing something above life. It’s not pretty, but it makes for an awesome movie-going experience.