The Death and Public Speaking Award
He inspected his flock, a complex assembly of middle-age men with burned-out faces, depressed teenage boys and girls with withering hopes for a better future, some elderly scarred by loss and isolation. He had cultivated them, preying on their psychological blind spots, betraying their trust. All for the greater good.
Still, he hated every bit of the charade. The azure colored robes, the shallow religious rituals, the community drugs to numb the minds. He hasn’t enjoyed the taste of a proper steak in months, unfortunate side effect of the tricyclic compound he’s been secretly mixing into the water. Desperate times demand desperate measures.
But the moment of truth had arrived, his heart pounded heavily as his next words will compel either life or death. He walked onto the podium, raised his glass to everyone and they all drank before he started speaking.
‘I was just like you, trying to find some god-damn meaning in this awful world. But I failed. And so did each and every one of you. That’s why we are here.’
‘The truth is simple. The universe does not care about anything, it is just us, creatures come about by a random process who evolved these weird prediction machines called brains, which relentlessly try to infer any meaning upon life when there is none.’
There is no purpose for us. There is no need for us to live, no point to our suffering. The same can be said for the whole of humanity.
Ultimately, our sun will expire, consuming earth in a last searing explosion. Even if we escape earth, the universe comes with a deadline. Would our lives really have mattered then? The universe is indifferent if we expired early or made it until the end!’
He raised his glass again to the grim audience.
‘I’ve shared these thoughts. But then the scientist in me realized something. First, life has a stupid definition. None of the molecules that build our cells are “alive”, even cells are mostly just self-sustaining nanomachineries engulfed by dead membrane to separate its dead molecular guts from dead molecules outside. Are we truely alive?
That’s why I prefer definitions from existence. Molecules exists, cells exists, brains exist. The purpose of our brain’s existence does not lie merely in projection of our flimsy consciousness, but in its ability to imagine and create stuff that doesn’t exist yet. Imagination is a process that births patterns into our universe which could never happen on their own. Because we have brains, creation is our duty. Maybe we ought to create meaning, not search for it out there?”
A quick glimpse around the room saw mental wheels working, and forgotten hopes reluctantly surfacing in response to his words. He needed to accentuate that feeling.
“Well, I guess it’s moot now. At the beginning of the night, I poisoned all our drinks. None of us will wake tomorrow.”
The first girl already started passing out. He smiled as the panic set in. For a bunch of death cultists, dying surely rattled them now.
Months ago, they thought they’d joined a death cult, finding others to exit life together with a blaze of glory. A middle finger towards our nihilistic universe. But he had misled them intentionally. Death was never on offer, even now only sleeping pills.
Tomorrow, hopefully, they will recognize that their existence was never bound but by imaginary chains. And that in this universe where some creative freedom exists, meaning might loom as well.