I was listening to Star Talk Radio recently while I walked from l’Hôtel de Ville to la Sorbonne, sometime between 19:00 and 20:00. Neil DeGrasse Tyson and his guest discussed the practical impossibilities of wormholes, cause, effect, and if time travel is feasible. While I listen to them delve into the theories of predetermination and free will, I started to feel very concerned.
First, concerned. Then, angry, as if I were being personally attacked in some way. I had to wonder if predetermination required a god. I hate the idea of god. I hate that I am not a god. If our existence is already mapped out, why?
I am fiercely existentialist at my core. I, like everyone, have fabricated my vision of life and universe to suit my needs, to comfort myself. I am trying to learn as much as possible because I believe in science. I must see to believe. I don’t trust invisible, omnipotent spirits; I don’t even believe that such a spirit exists. If it does, I will still be mad.
The way I lost religion and a god feels relatively common: bad things happened, without warning, for no reason. They started happening when I was young. They continued to happen as I grew. And as I grew, I became more conscious of my consciousness, more aware that my presence on this planet was arbitrary. My awareness turned on me; my own brain hated its existence. This existence which it did not ask for, this world in complete disarray.
French philosophers started to help me. Words like “chaotic,” “random,” and “absurd” entered my vocabulary and soothed me. The only way this life and this universe made sense was if they did not make sense. I can only accept the death of my friends when I remember that it is meaningless, random, chaotic, and absurd. Religious words only continued to induce rage; if someone tells me one more time this is part of a “plan” I will lose my fucking mind.
The only “religion” that appears sensible to me is Buddhism, and even so I am not sold 100% on all of the ideas (reincarnation, for one). However Buddhist philosophy, zen parables, and meditation are all very reasonable to me. Dr. Tyson and his guest on Star Talk even cited a common Buddhist axiom: the past does not exist, it is an illusion, the future does not exist, it is an illusion, the only thing that exists is the present.
So I continue in this way. My scientific, medical, and astrophysical aspirations are still fervent within me. Now I listen to Star Talk even at the gym. When I finish my cardio and weight lifting I go to the small room dedicated to stretching. I put my towel down on the mat, and I fold my body into the child’s pose.
Every time I do this, I am reminded of the images I have seen of Muslims in prayer. I imagine that I am praying. I imagine that I am bowed before a supreme power, unworthy for being human. The stretch feels great; the thoughts…confusing.