Dubiously celebrated pop-artist Andy Warhol famously opined, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. In this age of viral flashes-in-the-pan, it’s tempting to attribute impressive prescience to Mr. Warhol for having made this prediction several decades prior to the dawn of the internet. But in doing so, one would need to square that suspicion of genius with Warhol’s curiously soup can-heavy body of visual art, not to mention countless cinematic nightmares that collectively served as a platform for Divine to somehow make transvestism even campier than it already was.
It seems more reasonable to believe that the very definition of fame has changed immeasurably since the days when one actually had to sing or act or invent or win Super Bowls or commit mass murder if he or she desired renown beyond their small circle of acquaintance. Since “fame” is such an amorphous term that self-adjusts to the times, let’s generously call a “fame-worthy” event something that at least merits a mention in the local paper. If you’re Ariana Grande, that event might be an unexpected sneeze or a new ass-cheek tattoo. But for most of us, there are only three events that our culture considers important enough to report in the press: birth, marriage and death. Two of these events are universally inevitable, of course, which leaves only one wild card – marriage – to potentially set one apart from every past, present and future member of the species. And yet more than half of the earth’s population enters into this meaningless love contract at some point, so everyone feels that their particular ritual must stand apart from the rest. In the US, this usually translates to celebrating the monumental event by inviting friends and family to a big hall where they eat, drink and perform the Chicken Dance.
So you were born a number of years ago and you recently invited a bunch of your family and friends to a big hall to eat, drink and perform the Chicken Dance. What’s left? That’s right. The day you begin the slow transformation into a pile of mulch.
Where does this leave those of us who have already exited a vagina and opted, for whatever reason, to eschew the sacrament of marriage? It may seem hopelessly bleak, at least in the minds of people who estimate their life’s value by the number of “major events” it has thus far contained. The entire template of the popular version of a life worth living is precisely what keeps us so miserable. And if we’re not exactly miserable, then we’re anxious to the point of distraction at the prospect of losing the fruits of our accomplishments.
Everything is relative, and to what you choose to relate is your only real freedom of choice. If you choose to compare your experience to the current cultural image of a successful life, you are doomed to disappointment sooner or later. You may fail to live up to such an image or the image itself might just change into something completely incompatible with your past ideas of success and happiness. But what if you instead chose reality itself as the constant against which you compare your experience?
Reality is flux. It is perpetual interdependent change as viewed through a perpetually changing mindset. There are as many experiences of reality as there are lifeforms on the planet. In other words, reality is personal rather than static and definable. A primitive method of utilizing this knowledge is to buy into a religious tradition with an attractive afterlife cosmology. This time-honored tradition continues to imbue countless people with an undeserved sense of eternal importance, but it demands more than a little subconscious suspension of disbelief. Incidentally, that’s also what’s needed to sustain a good case of paranoid schizophrenia.
In case you didn’t notice, I just extracted all tangibility from the term “reality”. The reason you’d be hard-pressed to find just two scientists or theologians in agreement as to its real nature is because it is nothing more than a will-o-the-wisp. Its very emptiness is what enables us to personalize it in any way we wish.
For the purposes of this post, let’s agree that the undefinable, ineffable nature of reality renders it essentially meaningless. Or we can just say that something so open to eternal debate without hope of a logical consensus is, quite literally, nothing. No-thing. This is precisely why it is the ideal concept to use as the fulcrum in your own experience of relativity. Compare your life, your actions, your words and feelings to this grandiose no-thing called reality. Since a thing cannot be meaningfully compared or related to a no-thing, doing so might just be the very definition of freedom. There is nothing in the Universe that can render your life good or bad, worthy or unworthy, meaningful or meaningless, including you. Once this sinks in, you will inevitably stop indulging in such self-important mythology and learn to simply live. Experience. Explore. Laugh, cry, yell and scream while understanding the utter frivolity of it all. Get married. Get a tattoo on your ass cheek. Adopt a lemur. Move to Scranton. Become a Scientologist. Eat a tennis ball. Whatever the fuck you want to experience, go ahead and experience it. And remember that it means absolutely nothing because you mean absolutely nothing because the Universe has given us all the priceless gift of experiencing what it’s like to be thinking, feeling, conscious beings that came from, are composed of, and will return to absolutely nothing.