In the neverending pursuit of the meaning of life, for those of us not convinced by the Bible, what are we to believe the sum of our parts to be? Simply a collection of atoms and minerals and pumping organs? Chemical reactions of the brain leading us to decide we’d prefer chocolate cake and cigarettes over Sunday School and waiting in long lines? For anyone who’s felt heartache or had any sort of big dream or held their newborn baby in their own hands, it’s kind of hard to believe we’re nothing more than electrically charged proteins.
But if we are just a collection of atoms, in turn then are our thoughts just a collection of experiences doled out to create our decisions? If a child is abandoned, will they be prone to abandon? Do our teenage years, or college years, or whatever years are most tumultuous, define us for the rest of our lives and can we ever overcome the desire to screw everything up just for the satisfaction of the temporary?
I like to stand outside in this bitter night air and let cigarette smoke burn the back of my throat. I watch the clouds with their anti-silhouettes against the bold blue of space against our atmosphere and imagine how many other human beings are thinking my thoughts, feeling my emotions, pursuing the same irrational desperate attempts at clinging to something that will finally make everything feel right in its place. It can be so easy to feel like you’re all alone in this world, but even if you can’t communicate with them, there are probably half a billion other people doing just what you’re doing. For some that’s a sickening thought. Americans love the idea of individuality, if not the practice. But it can be a comfort, like a Boston Creme donut and coffee two mornings after New Years Eve.