If you ever sit very quiet with yourself – lying in bed in those hushed moments of night with the sheer-black fabric of darkness veiling your eyes or you are peering out over a green and brown expanse of rolling hill and forest from the top of a sun-bleached mountain top – I swear you can hear the sound of the universe. If you listen very close, beyond the groaning shifts of the settling house or the howling wind of nature’s scream, you can hear that never-ending movement of time that is pulling you towards your extinction.
And sometimes in those moments an existential malaise breaks down on you like a frigid ocean wave in the dead of winter and you are visited by the heart-thumping, body-trembling fear of your mortality and the slow encroachment of your nonexistence. If you sit very quiet with yourself and listen to the sound of the universe, this is what you will hear.
Now, I am not pointing this out because I enjoy reminding people they are going to die someday. It scares the shit out of me as much as anyone else. I have no fucking clue what comes after this mad mess of existence. I suspect it is nothing but one can never be to sure about nothing. It sometimes has a way of becoming something.
Whatever it is, that slow tick of time that you can hear when you are really paying attention to the world and to your life – that movement has some potential in it. Not just potential for sadness and anxiety and regret. No. It has potential to be a great motivator towards fulfilling your legacy to make sure that the universe knows you were here.
What Does That Mean?
Everything you do in this world is a contribution. Everything you do adds something. The good shit usually adds more good shit and the bad shit usually adds more bad shit. It’s not hard to see how we impact the world through our actions and our choices. I shouldn’t even have to explain that you should try to contribute good shit, right? Good, because that’s not the point of this article. The point is that we have to maximize the good contributions to the world in such a way that the universe can not forget our presence, for however long that is.
Like throwing rocks in a pond you are causing ripples throughout the world. Some people, those tiny stones with little mass or density, they make small splashes. They cause the sort of ripples that does not stir the universe. Those people are destined to be forgotten in the rippling of others. They will be swept up in the waters of the universe and be forgotten. These are the couch-sitters, the binge-watchers, the comfort-zoners, the entertainment-over-experiencers. These poor souls are destined to be but footnotes in the catalog of the universe.
Our goal then is to be large stones, great boulders with infinite mass and density, and throw ourselves repeatedly into the center of the universe, rippling the waters of life to such a degree that the universe has no choice but to remember that we were here.
So how do we become large stones?
Create or Accomplish
“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
If the universe is going to remember that you were here you need to do one of two things. You need to either create things or accomplish things.
Creating is a way of adding to the universe. It is a way of contributing in a way that enhances one of two things; beauty or understanding. All natural creation is an enhancement of beauty or understanding and when we create something that adds to this tapestry we are creating as the universe itself creates. We are making something that adds to the natural wonder of existing. We are contributing something that augments the way we see the world. And when we create something that enhances understanding we are working towards defining the beauty of the universe.
When you can add one of these creations to the universe in this way you will always force it to turn its attention to you, because you are amplifying it, and by association, your presence in it.
Most enhancements of understandings in the universe fall within the realm of philosophy and science and most enhancements of beauty fall within the arts. Music. Painting. Literature. There is plenty of crossover between the enhancement of beauty and that of understanding. We needn’t get so caught up in defining which is which. Because the whole of it is creation. We should strive only to create what is uniquely ours to create.
But being noticed by the universe for creation does not mean merely creating physical things. We can also think of other things – more important things perhaps – that we create in the world that would remind the universe that we were here. Joy. Laughter. Love. Passion. We are very capable of creating these things, in ourselves and others, and anytime you can be the conductor of a great chorus of laughter or joy or love or passion the universe takes notice. It has no choice but to turn itself to that explosion of exultation that comes from those emotions.
Creating things connects you to the universe because the universe itself is a creating thing. It responds to its own and being a creator puts you in the same class as the universe. The key is to create things that help the universe become more and not create things that requires the universe to become less. But we have already said that that is obvious.
The other thing we can do to remind the universe that we were here is to accomplish things. To bring our dreams, and the dreams of others, to fruition. To pour our lives work into the world. Accomplishing things is an attraction to the universe. It speaks to the desire for fulfillment. It tugs at the threads of the universe and secures them around you and your legacy.
I should be clear here and say that, I am not talking about the sort of accomplishment you might be thinking. I am not saying that the universe is going to remember you because you have 3 PhD’s, can speak 8 languages, and your bank account is bursting at the seams. Those are personal accomplishments. Great things, in and of themselves, but nothing the universe will take overt notice of. The true accomplishment that the universe takes note of is what you do with all those things you have achieved.
The universe doesn’t give a shit about what you personally have been able to do, it cares what you have done to help others with the spoils of what you have been able to do. We should think more often about our accomplishments in that way. The things we achieve are only meaningful if they can be shared with others.
The movement towards our accomplishments should be in that light, as a catalyst towards helping others also achieve, because if we can be the start of a chain of accomplishment the universe is going to feel all of it tangle around the impact of your accomplishment on others and it is going to take notice.
Putting It All Together
If you put in even a half assed effort, you will go through life and eventually figure out what the hell you want the universe to say about you. Do you want to be a creator or an accomplisher? Maybe a bit of both? Whatever it is, you then have to go do that with a wild fucking recklessness, so the universe can prick up it’s ears and start paying attention. You have to bleed yourself dry on the efforts towards creating or accomplishing everything you want the universe to remember about you. That is the only way you make sure that the universe knows that you were here.
Nothing Left Of You When You Die
“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.” ~ Arthur Miller
This is the thing about dying, You don’t get to take anything with you. Nothing. So you why not make sure as shit that you leave it all here in a madness of creation and accomplishment?
It should be as if you wore yourself paper-thin – you should lie nearly translucent in your grave. You do not want to approach occupation of that little plot of your eternal home and suspect that you could have gave any more effort to life. That would be the worst feeling in the world. To die with regrets.
Oh sure, there are going to be some things that haunt you when you die. That is an unavoidable condition of living. No one escapes that little sadness, but if we do it right, if we give with the right sort of intensity to our gifts of creation and accomplishment, then we can die with the right regrets. That regrets that produce that wistful smile of remembrance and a lesson that had to be learned the hard way.
And those right regrets will be born on chances taken. On mental and emotional battles fought. On wounds suffered and on hearts broken. On the pursuit of magical things that everyone else says can never exist and in paying homage to those beautiful things that everyone else insists are repulsive. Those things that pulled you under sometimes and threatened to break you. Those are the regrets that other people will come to envy in you. Those are the chances you took that other people will come to see as the difference in your life and the absence in theirs.
If I can hit my dirt nap with those kind of regrets, and not have the kind of regrets that are born from what-ifs and why-didn’t-I’s and I-shoulda’s, I will die content with the knowledge that, though I wear some scars and battle wounds and have left the shattered remnants of everything that I am out there in the universe, I also wear the accolades of creation and accomplishment. I bled all of myself into my living and I created a fucking mountain that made a splash when it fell. And from that splash I caused the ripples and from those ripples the universe is going to remember that I was here.