I found a dead squirrel on the side of the road last Tuesday, and I spent nearly an hour staring at it, trying to retrace its flattened body back to the round, fluffy creature I knew it had once been, and only after an hour did I discover that it was actually a chipmunk.
I wasn’t really thinking about its original shape before getting rolled over repeatedly by two-ton vehicles probably going at least 60 mph in the 45, but my mind just tried to piece it together naturally. I was actually thinking about death. The ultimate infallible truth.
But is death the ultimate infallible truth?
Matter – can’t be created or destroyed
Life = Death
Living things need certain sustenance/environment to survive
Motion (physics stuff)
Pythagorean Theorem (I’m really reaching here)
Humans Need Hope/Purpose
I stare at that last one. I wrote it simply to replace the former. People could survive without hope or a purpose, maybe not for very long, but there was no denying existence.
It echoed that ridiculous question that if a tree falls in the forest, and no one’s around to hear it, does it really make a sound. Of course, it makes a sound. That wasn’t the point of the question.
Let me rephrase: If something dies/ceases to exist, and no one is affected or cares, did the existence of that something even matter?
Some people would argue Of course! Everything matters! Others would laugh and say Not really, but that’s life. Others might claim Well I wouldn’t care/I would care. And then there are those who would simply shrug their shoulders. Those are the ones that interest me. The shruggers. Most shrug because they don’t care, and it interests me as to why they wouldn’t care. But then there are those few who shrug with a glimmer in their eye, a look of meditation on their faces, because they aren’t afraid to admit that they don’t know.
Should all lives matter? Yes. Do they? Well...
Does the existence of something – something isolated and abundant enough that it’s death would not leave a dent on the world – even matter?
Does a person’s existence matter?
Death. Ay, ’tis common…
I can almost picture Hamlet as he speaks, surrounded by gray inside and out, staring gravely at his mother with soft yet hardened eyes.
Reasons Why Human Existence Matters:
I stare at the list, the list that should be easy. I make some coffee, pour half of it out, go to Kroger, take a nap, and then return to the empty list. And I stare at it again.
Medicine, Music, Art, Math, Stories. I can’t put these because they only apply to other humans. Human existence has only ever benefited other humans. And to be frank, everything I thought I would put down already exists in nature. Humans create a different kind of music and art, but would they be missed?
Wait… that last one. Stories.
Humans record history. Of course it only benefits other humans, but where in nature has history been recorded besides in the rings of trees? And that’s not the detailed description that Chaucer or Wordsworth would give if they were to write history.
Why do we call it that? History.
I found something to put on my list.
Humans are beautiful, in their own chaotic way. It their history and art that disrupts then frantically tries to glue back together. They put everything in nature out of order then try to rearrange the order in a better way because their own knowledge – which is simply the understanding of the rules of nature put down on paper – has led them to believe that they are superior. They are the fixers, the tiny little gods of the earth.
No wonder so many pagan mythologies are captivating. They are based off of humans.
Such amusing, fascinating things we are. Humans.
But why would Fate allow our beauty, our destructive flash of lightning existence, ever come to be? And what is Fate but an idea that we give ourselves to establish some sense of purpose?
Surely there’s something more to this existence than simply Beauty.
What made humans so special? Existing as the source of chaos in a world of order, a world of laws designed by math, now crumbling because of this very chaos. But yet, humans are special. The good and the evil, coinciding in one single person. One single beautiful person who is as unique as any separate plant or animal. But plants and animals all do the same thing. They have instinct that forces them to follow the order. Humans do not. We carve our own way. We see things in gray and sometimes choose the good and sometimes the evil. So many personalities and history and art and music and beauty stirred together to create an individual. A drop of chaos in the sea of human history. What will that drop do?
Does that drop have a reason for existing?
I ruminate over the history that matters to me. Human history. The never-ending, cyclical timeline of my species.
It seems as though humans were instilled on purpose… with a purpose. But what? Wouldn’t we follow the natural order otherwise? But why? What was Mother Nature thinking? What could’ve happened if we were once a part of the natural order and then somehow escaped as free radicals running amuck upon the earth?
What gods aren’t based on humans? What gods did not consign Fate to some individuals while leaving others to dangle on the threads of simply existing?
I think about too many things, but it always leads back to this Purpose business. I have yet to discover the root of death. It has only led to the root of existence, and now this. All my searches only lead to more questions. These questions don’t matter to most, but that’s because we’ve been trained to put them in the back of our minds and leave them trapped behind the bars of what could properly be labeled Fear. But I can’t stand to leave them caged. I have to let them wander, constantly coming back up again at the slightest indication, even in the flattened body of a chipmunk.
I go back to my list of infallibles and bite my lip while twirling the pencil between my fingers. I put it to the sticky pad. It takes a minute, but I slowly carve the words.
My search has only begun.
(Photo: Will van Wingerden)