The universe doesn’t give a flying fuck about you

I’ve been watching this show lately with my 6-year-old son, Austin, who likes learning about space and planets and black holes and stuff. It’s called How the Universe Works.

And man, the universe has one hell of a story to tell.

It all starts with, presumably, the Big Bang, wherein a single point in space barfs forth a hot, violent soup of particles and energy that take a few hundred million years just to cool down enough to begin coalescing into stars. You know… to “cool down” enough to become giant fucking balls of fire.

Stars ignite. Star clusters form, and become galaxies. Rocks in space start running into each other, and a few planets are created.

Eventually, the Earth is born. Hooray!

The Earth sits there for a few more billion years, until, after a lot of back and forth and general bureaucratic indecision, life shows up. Very, very recently, humanity, (which is perfect and unique if you ignore how random it all seems), makes its appearance. Hooray!

That lasts for a little while. Humans thrive. Invent the rotisserie. Build the internet. Watch porn.

After a bit, though (and this part of the story is still unwritten, but definitely coming) the sun sloughs off its outer layers, obliterating all of the inner planets as it dies. Then, as the fusion at the sun’s core that keeps it inflated runs out of raw materials, it collapses into a white dwarf, and the solar system weeps as it loses yet another great player to retirement.

Hooray!

After this, it gets really fun. The astrophysicists who used to think the universe was going to re-contract into the “Big Crunch” now say that the universe’s expansion is actually accelerating. Meaning: After enough time passes, the Earth’s old position (Earth having been blown away aeons ago, of course) will be so distant from anything else that you’d be able to look up into the sky and see absolutely nothing at all.

Quite a story, right?

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper

Deep, man.

I don’t know about you, but looking up into the sky on a clear night is enough to give me existential chills.

You’re not just looking up into a curtain of black. You’re looking into the eye of the universe. Stare for a while and you start to realize — on a deep, gut level — that the moon is a giant rock circling us in space. The sun is a violent, fusion-fueled ball of plasma and gas millions of miles away that destroyed the atmospheres of all of the inner planets (including Mars, which is farther away from it than we are) and would do the same to ours if we weren’t lucky enough to have a magnetic field that diverts the solar wind.

The cute little pinpricks of light you see out there are other giant, explosive, incredibly pissed-off balls of gas floating in an infinite void, most of which are far more impressive than our puny sun. And that smear of milky white through the sky? That’s the center of our own galaxy — a gigantic pinwheel circling a supermassive black hole like floating detritus around the vortex of a flushing toilet.

There’s a lot of crazy shit going on out there.

And in fact, the Earth could bite the dust at any time.

Comets. Asteroids. Apparently, there’s even a star nearby that may eventually go all black hole on us. When it does, it’ll shoot a jet of X-Men style radiation out of its poles, perpendicular to its accretion disc, directly at us. (The good news is that we’d never see it coming. We’d just suddenly be reduced to our constituent atoms.)

Even avoiding all of that, though, just buys us time. The Earth is not permanent. The sun is not permanent. The oldest stars alive today are not permanent. It will all end.

And in the middle of this story (because we’re the ones telling it), is us.

Here on our little blue planet. Here at this exact, tiny, special blink in time. Here, but only “here” in the way a beetle might be “there” on the sidewalk of Times Square during rush hour. Sure, the beetle can survive, but only for as long as it’s not in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nobody’s out to get that beetle… but nobody’s watching where they’re stepping, either.

The city was there long before the beetle, and it’ll be there long after the beetle’s inevitable demise.

The city, always neutral, honestly doesn’t care one way or the other whether the beetle lives, dies, suffers, or thrives.

And you were worried that trying something new might make you look dumb or that your business might not make any money.

What the fuck is wrong with you?

The universe doesn’t care about you.

It can’t. It’s too big, with too much going on.

Maybe there’s a grand conductor, and maybe there’s not. I do happen to believe in God, or the Spirit of Life, or the Force for all I know, but regardless of belief or disbelief, one thing I know for certain is that no matter WHAT or WHO is out there, he or it doesn’t “care” if you define “care” in terms of life and death. Nobody is special. Nobody gets a pass.

Everything dies. Everything. You were born with a terminal disease, just like everything else that has ever existed. You, your lamp, the sun, and the Bee Gees all have that in common.

This, like the universe’s apathy, is neither good nor bad. It is simply a fact.

But this fact — the immutable, inevitable, impossibly obvious fact we will die as surely as we were born — is something we all deny for most of our lives. You’d think we’re never going to die, the way we cower and second-guess and fret over each little action. We act like what we do today will forever alter the flow of creation, of time, of space. Every move is vital. Each little event could upset the delicate balance. Everything is of paramount importance.

We can’t do things differently, because the system, however imperfect, works and is extremely delicate. We might upset it by thinking outside the box.

We have to weigh every decision, because a butterfly flapping its wings in Nova Scotia could cause a hurricane in Guam. Or, as Homer Simpson taught us, if you kill a mosquito in dinosaur times, Ned Flanders might become the unquestioned lord and master of the universe.

We can’t do something that might make us look ridiculous, because first impressions last forever.

We can’t try and fail, because then we’ll be ruined forever.

Think a scar (or a tattoo, for that matter) is permanent? It’s not. Your body was literally formed from stardust and will eventually return there. The duration of a scar doesn’t even register on the big time line. In fact, I heard that God watches jewelry commercials and LOL’s when they say that diamonds are forever. It’s all a big joke up there. There’s a drinking game in Heaven, where angels do a shot every time humans invest “for the long term.”

What are you so fucking worried about?

You are here now. Eventually, you will be gone. You have but a nanosecond on the universal clock to do whatever it is you’re going to do. When that time is gone, it’s gone. Forever.

That means that although what you do doesn’t matter to the universe, it should matter one hell of a lot to YOU.

In fact, it should matter to you more than it currently does. If you knew how small you are and how short a time you have to do what you can, you wouldn’t waste time watching five fucking hours of TV a day. You wouldn’t waste time doing a job you hate. You wouldn’t waste the little time you have dealing with assholes, feeling sorry for yourself, or being timid about the things you’d really like to do.

I’m 35, and it dawned on me just recently that it’s not at all long before I’ll be forty. And forty is FUCKING OLD in the mind of a guy with the mentality and sense of humor of a teenager. I mean, hell, you can make an argument for 30 being young despite the fact that the MTV crowd says different, but forty-something is what your grandmother was.

When I had this epiphany, a succession of uncomfortable and incredibly obvious realizations followed.

If I can turn 40, I can turn 50.

If I can turn 50, I can turn 60.

Once, I was a kid and everyone else was old. The tables will turn. I’ll be the guy that kids look at and see as old. Me. Fucking ME. Me, who was once out cruising on Friday nights, staying up until dawn. Me, who thought I was indestructible, who thought I was forever. Turns out I was wrong. Turns out I was just one in 6.8 billion, and very much subject to the same laws of time and space as everyone else.

One day, if I’m very lucky, I’ll be a shriveled 100-year old guy with a cane. An old man with a kid’s mind, wondering how the hell this could have happened.

Think about this. Now.

Think back five years in time. Remember what you were like. Realize how fast five years can go. Think about who you are today, the place you’re in and the age you are. Then step back into the shoes of your five-years-ago self and look at yourself as you are today.

I have two kids. That’s not possible. People like me don’t have kids. We’re too young. We’re kids ourselves, forever young and irresponsible. It’s ridiculous. I live in a house that I own. I pay bills. It’s crazy.

Think about it.

Realize that time will never stop. NEVER. You will never be younger again. It’s like being on a train with no stops that’s always leading you farther and farther from home… or closer and closer to home, depending on how you look at it. You can never get off that train. You can never board a train going the opposite direction.

If you missed a stop, tough shit.

If there was this great thing even just two miles back that you decided not to do, you can’t change your mind and go do it. That place is gone forever.

A simple example for me is skateboarding. I’d have loved to do that. And sure, adults can learn to skateboard. I’m a huge believer in “it’s never too late for X.” But really… REALLY… if you want to truly skate, that’s something for the young. I know I won’t be taking it up now, shredding through our concrete jungle.

In my past, there’s also an opportunity I could have taken advantage of that I didn’t, and that I wish I had. There’s a thing I got rid of that I really wish I’d kept.

But the train never backs up. Never. I missed those things, and I will never get a second chance.

Do yourself a favor, right now, and realize two things:

1. You will keep getting older, and then you will die.

2. Everything that’s ever entered your experience has lasted and will continue to last for only a brief moment in the life of the universe.

This is game time, champ. You’re in. You’re in, playing, right now, and the clock is ticking.

So stop wondering what it all means and how you’ll possibly ever do X and what people will think, and get on with your life already.

Stop being a pussy and go do something amazing.

Do epic shit.

I’m just now getting around to the end of the newer Battlestar Galactica series and something hit me when Dr. Baltar suited up with the troops for the end assault on the Cylon colony.

It’s this: Noble people do noble things.

That’s it. See, throughout the series, Baltar is a selfish asshole. He’s responsible for the annihilation of the human race, he betrays everyone, he forms a cult that rubs his chest and feeds him grapes.

But in the end, he does the right thing. And when I saw that, I realized that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. What matters is what you do.

A whole series’ worth of being ignoble doesn’t stop a truly noble act at the end from being noble. The idea of “nobility” (or “good,” or “bad,” or “worthy,” or “awesome,” or anything else) is defined only by our actions.

You can’t be a bad person who does good things. If you do good things, you’re not bad; you’re good. There is simply no way to manifest badness other than by being bad. Anyone who’d argue that you can be bad while ultimately doing good things is just a douchebag philosophy major looking to get his ass kicked.

So what does this mean to you?

Why… it means everything. It means that in the small amount of time you have to live, you can be whatever you want. It means that even though the universe doesn’t care enough to give you what you want, it doesn’t care enough to stop you from having it, either. So embrace that anarchy, and take those things for yourself.

If you want to be awesome in this life, do awesome things.

If you want to be a leader, do some leading.

If you want to be an expert, do the things an expert does.

A few weeks ago, I talked to Trust Agents co-author Julien Smith, and soon after, he sent me this tweet:

For a moment, I wondered, “How the hell can I be more epic?”

But then I realized something really obvious. To be epic, all I’d need to do is to do epic shit.

So that’s what I’m doing, today and from here on out.

How to level up

Just do it. Claim it. Stop waiting for permission to be epic.

Most people think that they need to be tapped on the shoulder by the Epic Fairy if they ever hope to be epic, or if they’re ever going to have the audacity to do something truly epic. But it’s not true. Want to be epic? Just do epic shit. There’s nothing else to it.

People always say, “I wish I was amazing. I wish I was awesome.”

Fucking hell. Stop whining and just be it already. Be fucking awesome.

Nobody’s going to give you the gift of awesome. Nobody’s going to make you good, or great, or amazing, or epic. Nobody’s going to make you an expert or an authority or a voice anyone should listen to. Nobody’s going to level you up. If you want that next level, take it. Take it for yourself.

Grab it. Become it. Claim it.

Write a treatise. Create an event. Champion a cause. Build something great. Speak your mind. Make the call. Build the business. Author the book. Send the email. Do it. Do it.

If you fail, big deal.

You might write something and nobody might read it. You might build it and nobody might come. You could fail and ruin your life. You could take a chance and end up looking really, really stupid. Boo-fucking-hoo.

It doesn’t matter.

You are very small. We are all staring down the barrel of a gun, and we last only for the tiniest, tiniest moment in time. Your life is a one-way train, and any second you waste is a second lost forever.

You are that beetle on the streets of New York. The universe doesn’t hate you, but it doesn’t love you, either. You’re just an atom in its infinite workings. The universe doesn’t care if you live, die, suffer, or thrive.

Only YOU care.

If your life is to mean something, it’s up to YOU.

You cannot influence the movements of planets. You cannot live forever. You cannot affect the entropy of the universe. All you can do is to make this moment — your moment — better. You can affect the lives of others around you, and you can affect your own life. You can ease some suffering. You can do some epic shit. If you, yourself, only last for a nanosecond, you might expand your influence to a millisecond. And that’s something. Honest, it is.

You don’t matter to the planets and the sun and the stars, but you matter to YOU. You matter to those around you. You matter to those you can reach, and touch, and who you live and die with.

Stop waiting for someone to give you what you want. The universe is too busy to care. It has worlds to create and galaxies to destroy. If you’re worried about death and about your own end, don’t. It’s coming whether you like it or not. You will either arrive at the end of your life in style or you will arrive broken and beaten, but whichever way you choose, have no doubt that you WILL ARRIVE.

There is only now. If you have power, it’s now. If you can change anything, you have to do it now. If you want to be or to have that next great thing, be it. Have it. Take it. Own it. Do it. Become it.

Be awesome. Do epic shit.

Do it now. The clock is ticking.

—–

NOTE: I wrote a follow-up to this post, so if you dug this, you might want to check out the other one too.


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Comments

  1. Ian says:

    Great article. Eloquently expresses much of what I believe too.
    I have a TV series recommendation for you – a BBC documentary series called “Wonders of the Universe”. It is a follow-up series to “Wonders of the Solar System”, and is just jaw-dropping. It discusses much of what you talk about in a very accessible way, and although may be pitched at an older audience than your son Austin, I’m sure he’ll love it.
    I discovered this post via a somewhat roundabout route, from another author’s website, to a podcast, to a purchase on Amazon of “You are dying and your world is a lie”, (wrote the first review there) and eventually from a link in that to here!
    I obviously have a lot of catching up to do with your blogs.
    Ian

  2. Bridget says:

    I just found this today, and I love it, but also, I think the universe cares. I think we’re all part of the same thing and everything affects the whole. And in saying that, I think it may be more important to be authentically epic than if we were just flying through space on a big rock randomly.
    At 42, I’m loving becoming more me and showing up in the world that way. I am rewarded for it every time I do it!

    • Johnny says:

      Right, and assuming you found this via today’s post, I imagine you’ll agree that I’m not quite this nihilistic as a whole. But I do think we need to hear and know this message: Stop acting like you’re going to break the universe with your failure. Just do it already.

  3. alvaro says:

    Im not worried about inanimate objects flying around in space, not being sentient that would rule them out from thinking, i would of thought. Im worried about having no money and living a miserable life, did you only just realise that there is no God and break your religious programming that you Americans can’t seem to live without. Along with self pity, lying about Terrorism and representing the eternal victim, by perpetuating the lie your under constant attack from rogue elements. Not to mention your mawkish, twee, moralising, p.c. T.V. shows.

  4. Thanks for… a very epic post!
    – Sometimes we get another chance at that stop we missed on the train of life. I went backpacking round the world for a year when I was 35, even though I had a career and a mortgage and everyone else was 25. I wrote a book about it when I returned (you should read it 😉 )
    – Sometimes we don’t get another chance. As a kid I would have LOVED one of those big medicine balls with a handle that you can just grab onto and bounce around like crazy. I could get one now of course but I sense the magic feeling wouldn’t be as intense…

    • Johnny says:

      I kind of wish I could turn off the time awareness sometimes… sucks to know it’s one direction only! But I like this much, much better than the alternative.

  5. Bec Robbie says:

    Hi Johnny, I hope you don’t mind but I wrote about this blog post on my website. Congratulations, what an amazing post to still have new people reading it and commenting on it so long after publishing it. You have helped shape my world.

  6. Mc says:

    WHATS UP DOC!!!

  7. Yes, the universe IS full of amazing things. If I recall correctly, that photo included with the article is of the collision of two galaxies and the resulting stream of gamma rays (or some kind of radiation) that was emitted as a result. Forget where I saw that but think it may have been some physics site I visited, or perhaps NASA. Read the story of that sometime. Absolutely amazing … and there is SO much we don’t know still out there. Perhaps things we haven’t even imagined. Yes. Amazing universe for sure and I know I will be exploring as best I can from the Earth as long as I live! I LOVE science!

  8. Manuel Nava says:

    ur dfntion of truth s d dfnition of fallacy-u drg phlosphy down a nw drain n tk a bnch o truth seekrs wit u/congrts 2 d folowrs

  9. Rick says:

    15 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. I WILL do something epic I’ll stop reading dumb repetitive articles like this one.

  10. Deborah says:

    I just found your site. It’s the day after Christmas and I’m taking time off from the job I hate for the holiday. I prayed for direction for my life and somehow I ended up here. Usually I’m not a fan of a bunch of profanity, but it fit so nicely with this article. It wouldn’t have been the same without it. You are freakin’ awesome and so is this site. Glad I found you before I woke up on my death bed with regrets. Blessings to you!

  11. Ruxman says:

    This post changed my life. I actually woke up the next day and altered my plans because of it.

  12. EternalSnow says:

    I’ve read this once last year, and I’m reading it again. So far in my 19 years that I’ve been alive, it’s been a roller-coaster of not speaking up for what I believe in, and then finally speaking up for what I believe in. I’ve always done something else, for someone else, after reading this blog of yours, it pushed me to seek out what I want. I do still like to help others, but I’m also not holding myself back. I’m not going to make myself suffer, and realistically, sure there will be times that I’ll regret, no matter how much I try not to, but that’s not going to stop me from doing something epic. I’m still under 20, and there’s still lots of years ahead. I’m alive, and I’m going to do epic things, thank you for the boost.~

  13. EternalSnow says:

    (if by any chance you’ve received this twice, feel free to remove this one) I’ve read this once last year, and I’m reading it again. So far in my 19 years that I’ve been alive, it’s been a roller-coaster of not speaking up for what I believe in, and then finally speaking up for what I believe in. I’ve always done something else, for someone else, after reading this blog of yours, it pushed me to seek out what I want. I do still like to help others, but I’m also not holding myself back. I’m not going to make myself suffer, and realistically, sure there will be times that I’ll regret, no matter how much I try not to, but that’s not going to stop me from doing something epic. I’m still under 20, and there’s still lots of years ahead. I’m alive, and I’m going to do epic things, thank you for the boost.~

  14. oldman says:

    What the fuck is this slop? What a waste of fucking 10 minutes!

  15. faptastic says:

    If the universe cares, it’s going to care through you.

  16. Halina says:

    Great….now I got that Calvin Harris song “Let’s Go”, in my head….

  17. Now THAT was some epic shit!

  18. Jonathan says:

    I think the universe is unemotional, if there is a God I believe he cares. The universal laws apply to everyone give love, get love, give money, get money, give epicness, get epicness, nice post.

  19. Juliana says:

    Oh I disagree, I think the Universe loves me to pieces. It must because I have a knack for fucking things up, epically. 😉

  20. derek bruno says:

    This post made me realize something…I’m gay

  21. Sandeep says:

    It’s nothing any one is ignorant about, yet, profound. We got to remind ourselves every now and then that the ‘Universe indeed doesn’t give a flying fuck about us’. Thanks for the reminder.

  22. How ironic I was just browsing for blog tips to go viral and I stumbled upon this site. Great post bro; just what I was looking for!

  23. bill says:

    I’m 87 and I don’t care about the universe. I won’t look back at my life and regret anything I have done or not done. Life’s too damn short for any feel good crap. What’s done is done and can’t be changed.I have not deliberately done anything to harm anyone but as the old truism says “shit happens”. I think Einstein said it best “Reality is an illusion a very persistent one.”. Not ready to check out yet ,but have had some close ones.

  24. Lynn says:

    I LOVE this blog. What an attitude. You are awesome Johnny. You made it into the ranks of awesomeness. Me, I’m just sitting down here in New Orleans going crazy taking photos and shooting video. We even had a hurricane come through here a few years back and just about blow us all off the planet.

    Last year, we had an anniversary hurricane. Isaac. That badass decided it needed to visit us RIGHT in the middle of our Katrina anniversary stuff. Sio, I’m sitting down here watching and listening to the wind blow and wondering what was going through HIS mind when he decided to come HERE and visit. Anywhere else would have been okay … but NOT NEW ORLEANS on the anniversary of the flood.

    I’ve concluded. … the Universe doesn’t give a flying fuck!

    Okay … have a great week Johnny in all your awesome cynicism 🙂

    Lynn, still in New Orleans, LA.

  25. JMB says:

    Stumbled upon this by accident and love it. I am a teacher and wish I could read this in its entirety to every class….

    You nailed it my friend

  26. Rock the Camels Ass my man. Awesome read! Thank you!

  27. Noelle Imparato says:

    Lots of nice stuff in there. Yet you make one big mistake. THE UNIVERSE DOES CARE ABOUT YOU because you are part of the universe. You are part of the consciousness that gives birth to the universe and that keeps expanding as the universe expands. It’s not that everything dies, it’s more that we are a tiny cell of a giant living body. Just like with our own body, cells die all the time but their short lives are indispensable for the life of the body to go on. You could look at yourself the same way. You are perhaps no better than a beetle in a large Kosmos, yet without that beetle and all the others like you the Kosmos would not be able to keep living its life. And don’t forget that the external mapping of the Kosmos is done by your inner consciousness. Consciousness is built in the Kosmos and to separate the two is to surrender to the “modern” view. Man, it’s time to move on to the post-modern era, where the mapmaker is an intrinsic part of the mapping.

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