by Max Sirak
Money? Power? Sex? Revenge? Or would you be more altruistic? Would you wish for peace? Harmony? Unity? What if you had two wishes? Would you go one and one? Something for you and something for everyone else?
The only reason I ask is Steve Martin.
He has a list. In fact, he shared it with the whole world on Saturday Night Live. In case you missed it, you can watch it here. It's a short sketch. It's worth your time. It starts with a wish for all children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace. But don't worry – it quickly devolves from there.
Christmas was yesterday. This means I missed my chance to sit by a tree and deliver my own list. And, while it is the third crazy night of Chanukah, I wanted a broader appeal. So, this month, for my last column of the year, I'm stealing Martin's schtick.
We're about six days away from wrapping up 2016. For a lot of us, maybe even all of us, this means a chance at a fresh start. A round of clean slates for all, barkeep! Stepping into '17, many of us will be looking toward change. We will re-solve old problems and test our re-solutions. It is in this spirit, with tremendous honor, tons of gratitude, and the teensiest bit of humility, I give you…
My 2017 Wish List: Three Thoughts I'd Like For Everyone To Carry With Them Into The New Year.
1) You Are A Fucking Miracle
Yeah. I know. Laugh it up. I can practically hear your cynical snickers from here. It's fine. Giggle all you want. I'm still right.
Check it out – do you believe in our divine creation? Did some deity or some benevolent energetic impulse put us here? Great! You being here, playing a part in God's world makes you, by its first definition, a miracle.
Do you have any idea of the absolute, incredible improbability our universe even exists? I'm talking all of it. You. Me. Everyone and thing you see. The device in your hand. The latte you're drinking. The air you're breathing. The planet we're on. The star that keeps us warm. The body housing the mind making sense of these words. All of it.
Not one of these had to be here. But they are. In his book, Our Mathematical Universe, Physicist Max Tegmark says the chances of the universe being able to sustain life, “is smaller than the probability that a dart randomly fired into space from Mars would hit a bull's-eye on a dartboard on Earth.”
I can't hit a bullseye from 10 feet. Let alone 56 million miles.
Tegmark continues, “if the electromagnetic force were weakened by a mere 4%, then the Sun would immediately explode…” And, “if it were significantly strengthened, previously stable atoms such as carbon and oxygen would radioactively decay away.”
If the fundamental forces of our universe were even a few pennies on the dollar off, you wouldn't be reading this.
Oh, still not impressed? Here's one more from Max. If protons were two-thousandths of a single percent heavier, “they'd decay into neutrons unable to hold on to electrons, so there would be no atoms.”
No atoms means no elements. No elements means no stars. No stars means no planets. No planets means no us.
You are the product of countless outstanding, not to mention, extremely precise conditions. So, whether you like it or not, you are a miracle. And so is everyone you've ever seen, known, touched, or heard.
2) Your Time Is Precious
The fact anybody exists defies reason, logic, and statistics. Yet here we are. And it's not like we're some sort of simple organism. We're the damn jewels of existence (as far as we know). Evolutionarily superior to all other life we've encountered, we have developed tools, language, cities, culture, consciousness, and imagination. All of which, for better or worse, allow us to dominate the planet.
So, I ask you, “If you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment, would you capture it, or just let it slip?” (Eminem, “Lose Yourself”)
Are your palms sweaty? Knees weak? Did you throw-up last night's Christmas dinner? I hope not. But even if you did, it doesn't change a thing. You are still a miracle and Eminem is still right.
This is your chance. Right here. Right now. And there are no guarantees you will ever get another.
However, it's also my chance. And her chance. And his chance. And the weird guy on the train who kept making creepy eye contact with you, his chance. And the sweet older lady you passed in the street, her chance. And even the asshole who cut you off on the road, his chance. If we are here, now, it's our chance.
This means you have to play it cool. Hurting, stealing, or killing to get whatever it is you're after isn't the answer. I'm not advocating anarchy or taking by force. I'm arguing for living with purpose and meaning.
Because see – Osho, the Indian mystic, is also right. In his book, Creativity, he says, “Life in itself has no meaning. Life is an opportunity to create meaning. Meaning has not to be discovered: it has to be created. You will find meaning only if you create it. It is not lying there somewhere behind the bushes, so you can go and you search a little bit and find it.”
It doesn't matter the meaning you choose to create. Only that you do. Raising a family, loving another, scaling the corporate ladder, making good art, living off the grid, spending as much time outdoors as possible, all of these are valid.
Imagination is your only limit. That's the best part. There isn't just one answer. Osho, Eminem, and Tegmark aren't the only ones who're right. Author, Roger Zelazny, is too. In Trumps of Doom he writes, “Only a fool believes that life has but one meaning.”
Live your life. Create your meaning.
You only get one shot.
3) Lighten Up
Whatever it is you're going through, it's hard. I know. I get it. I'm going through crap too. We all are. There isn't a single person on the planet who isn't struggling with something. But whatever that happens to be for you, you don't have to be a dick about it.
Want to know why? Because whatever it is, chances are it isn't as bad as the Holocaust.
Oh, I know. Cheap shot, right? Genocide is the low-hanging fruit of humanity's darkness. But hear me out. It's not just Tegmark, Eminem, Osho, and Zelazny who are right. Viktor Frankl is too.
Frankl was a Jewish physician and therapist. He was born in Vienna in 1905. He survived three years in Nazi concentration camps (Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen). Then, he went on to develop his own form of psychotherapy. He also wrote Man's Search For Meaning.
Any guesses as to what Dr. Frankl might have used to survive the death camps? Any idea how he clung to existence? How he stayed alive through the horrors? Laughter.
“Humor was another of the soul's weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”
This is coming from a man who literally watched his mother, brother, and wife die. Not to mention, hundreds, if not thousands more. And in the depths of such darkness, Frankl realized the importance of making light.
Just because whatever is happening around you is depressing, disappointing, or despair-inducing doesn't mean you have to drown. You can be light-hearted. In fact, if ever there were a need for such things, it's at these tenebrific times.
I won't sit here and pretend it's easy. It's not. It's hard as hell. Hell is hard to go through. That's sort of the point. But odds are good, whatever level of the inferno you happen to find yourself trudging through, it isn't mass murder.
So please, arm your soul. Lighten up. If Viktor Frankl could do it, you can.
If I Had A Fourth Thought To Share
It's that Steve Martin is also right. “It could all go boom tomorrow.” (“A Holiday Wish” Saturday Night Live) Our lives, our everything, can be taken from us without a moment's notice.
But, we are here. By definition, that makes us, all of us, miracles. Our wonderment then feeds our curiosity. We ask, “What exactly do I, miracle that I am, want to create with my time here?” Going about such business, we will inevitably writhe. Agony strikes. Plans thwart. And, darkness falls.
So remember – lighten the hell up.