April 25, 2009

Total Perspective Vortex

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I'm going to Europe in less than 3 weeks. It hasn't really sunk in yet. I'm going to see my sister in Rome, my brother in Frankfurt, and attend a wedding in Spain. Before that, I'm going to take a trip to Los Angeles. I haven't been to LA since my sister lived there, which must be around 8 years. I didn't think I would ever say this, but I'm really excited to spend a weekend in LA.

A few months ago I had this panic attack. I guess that's what it was. I was driving back from Georgia, hadn't slept all night, and decided to pull over and take a nap in some hotel parking lot in northern Florida. I slept about two hours, comfortably, but when I woke up I was disoriented. I knew where I was, and I started driving, but felt so out of place in the world. I felt the meaninglessness of my existence, the imminence of death, and an overwhelming feeling of dread. I knew the state of mind couldn't last forever, so I kept driving towards my destination, just telling myself it would pass.

It probably only lasted twenty minutes. I got to thinking afterwards: the way I was seeing the world during those twenty minutes was probably more accurate than the twenty nine years before. That is, my perspective of my own place in the relatively limitless expanses of time and spice was more accurate. I am not the center of the universe, and thinking that I am is probably only my monkey brain coping with this fact in the most evolutionarily advantageous way, by completely ignoring it. For twenty minutes, these coping mechanisms broke down, and I saw how completely impossible it would be for humans to walk around all day, every day seeing their own lives in full perspective. 

We spend so much time trying to escape the reality of our mortality. We read books. We watch movies. We daydream. We get lost in pleasure. We work our days away. We drink our weekends away. We go to church and try to convince ourselves we aren't going to die one day, at least not permanently. Even though we see the permanence of death every day. I'm glad my monkey brain doesn't let me see my world in full perspective. It can keep fooling me. I will keep in mind that I'm being fooled, remembering that I'm human, and I'm going to die one day.

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