As it’s still the season of good cheer, now seemed like the perfect time to take a look at 10 terrifying thoughts/facts that we should find way scarier than we actually do.
What? This piece would be more suited for Halloween, you say? Shh you, it’s all planned…wait, you don’t think I have a strict editorial calendar? You think I just come up with these random ideas when I’m bored and write them without thought for their appropriateness? How dare you! I resent the implication.
As humans we spend so much time worrying about trivial things, like whether we set Geordie Shore up to record, we forget (or maybe choose?) to not ponder terrifying facts about our existence.
So here are 10 scary things I really think we should give more thought to. Each gets progressively worse and number 10 is…disturbing. Number 10 will make you question everything you thought was good and could potentially drive you to madness so I won’t be offended if you choose to quit at number 9. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Up to you!
1) Nearly 50% of all marriages end in divorce
Look at your partner. Flip a coin. The chances of staying together pretty much come down to that. Still, you might be one of the lucky half who get the happy ending. Well, I say happy ending, one of you will still die first…so happy ending within reason.
2) Your opinions don’t matter one iota
What did you think of the latest Star Wars movie? What’s your favourite colour? Which Elvis song is the best?
Spoiler alert…no-one cares!
As conscious beings we are the centre of our own universe, and so we give an extraordinarily disproportionate amount of weight to our own opinions. But most of us shouldn’t bother having them, for what they’re worth. We’re like cattle being lead to the slaughterhouse, mooing away, placating ourselves that we mean something until the bolt enters our brain.
I mean, sure, maybe our political leanings might get heard in an election. A two-party system is SURELY going to represent your views and what you stand for in a meaningful way, and it’s not as if a politician has ever failed to deliver on what they’ve been voted in to do.
But what is Twitter if not just millions of people shouting out their opinions into the void, occasionally going ‘me too’ when one of the rare people who are listened to say something. Some people might even write lengthy blogs that no-one’s going to read, just to feel validated. Could you imagine?
3) Living in the moment might not be all it’s cracked up to be
We all know that we should ‘live in the moment’, yet so many of us struggle to do so. We take loads of photos when we go on holiday. We film concerts whilst we’re watching them (seriously, why go to see a band live and then watch it through your phone screen?)
Why do we do this? To capture happy memories, we tell ourselves.
But what if it’s a darker, more insidious reason?
What if the reason we don’t live in the moment is because the moment isn’t as great as we imagined it would be, and looking back on a photo in a year’s time with the benefit of nostalgia and rose-tinted goggles is actually more rewarding than being there in the first place.
What if photos are just a lie we tell our future-selves. Remember how much fun that holiday was? Bet you can’t wait for the next one?
‘Love, did you pack the camera?’
What if photos are just promises to our future-selves of a happiness that doesn’t really exist…
4) Almost everything you believe is culturally conditioned
We humans like to think we’re so autonomous, freely choosing what we do and don’t approve of. But, really, everything from our manners to our morality is a product of where and when we were born.
This doesn’t seem so shocking until you’re asked to ponder whether you, should you have been alive during the slave trade, would have condemned slavery. Of course we’d like to think we would, but statistically that just doesn’t seem the case.
Every culture seems to have a ‘moral blind spot’, something terrible that everyone seems to accept – whether it’s slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia or whatever. Chances are, if you were born into that culture, you’d be subject to the same moral blindness.
And even if you could recognise the immorality, would you do anything about it? I think there’s a good case to be made that many of us would at least indulge these immoralities until it became socially disadvantageous to do so. Speaking of which…
5) Most humans sustain themselves on the cruelty of animals
It’s kind of horrific, in many ways, that when we celebrate love and good-will at Christmas, most of us do so around a carcass of a dead bird – a bird that had parents, wants and needs, and was probably murdered only a few weeks ago (Christmas reference – see, this post IS seasonal).
It rather torments me that so many of my favourite foods come from the body of a creature who just wanted to live their live. By eating meat we are complicit in an unimaginable number of slaughters each day of animals who probably did not have the best of existences.
And it’s not just meat. Did you know to eat dairy, we require calves to be dragged away from their mothers at a young age when the maternal bond is still strong? Did you know by consuming eggs, we create a surplus of male chicks who have to be ‘disposed of’?
Is this not our moral blind spot? And, oh dear, maybe we’re not blind to it after all. Maybe we’re indulging in this cruel luxury simply because it’s not yet socially disadvantageous to do so.
6. One day, you’re going to be dead. Forever.
Sometimes I lay awake at night, thinking about this. Imagine not existing. Not just for a long time, but for an eternity. There really will never be another dawn, just an eternal cold oblivion.
Aldous Huxley once said most people live their lives as though ‘death were no more than an unfounded rumour.’
But when you give it some thought, it’s totally terrifying. And, of course, totally inevitable.
7. We are trapped within our senses
It’s weird to think of our senses as a prison, but they kind of are. We can only experience what our senses allow. Anything beyond our senses is unknowable. Like, could you imagine explaining colours to someone who is blind? What are we missing out on with our sensory limitations?
Here are a few interesting thoughts. If our senses evolved to help us survive, does that guarantee that what we see, hear, smell, taste and touch are what is real? Or are they mere expedient approximations evolved for survival, not for truth?
And are there things beyond our five senses that we can’t begin to understand? What could it be? It might be beautiful. It might be horrific.
8. You can’t know anyone else is real
If our senses are a physical prison, our mind is our epistemological one. To indulge in some first year philosophy, how can we know anyone else is real? Well, we can’t.
We know we exist (well, our mind at least) thanks to Descartes – ‘Cogito ergo sum’, ‘I think, therefore I am.’
But we don’t know that everyone else isn’t a product of our imagination. We might just be a brain in a vat, and everything around us a simulated illusion. And even if the person is physically before us, we have no means of knowing they have the same complicated thought-processes we go through. They could be mere automatons with the illusion of free-thought.
We must assume others around us are real but we simply cannot ‘know’.
9. We could be wrong about everything
Imagine an ant. When they see a giant boot nearly crushing them, can they begin to comprehend what it is, what it belongs to and what goes on in that creature’s world? Do they even have the remotest capacity to do so?
We may just be (in fact, we probably are) like the ant – utterly oblivious to an existence we couldn’t begin to comprehend. This might bring a sigh of relief after all the terrible things listed above, but the universe does seem an uncaring and indifferent place, so who’s to say what we don’t know is better than what we do?
What if consciousness isn’t dependent upon an alive brain, but still connected to the physical body? What if death is total paralysis, but your consciousness remains?
What if there really is a wrathful God who sends most of us to burn for eternity?
What if immortality is a result of the same blind processes that formed the universe, and it’s a state of eternal ethereal torment?
It’s all a little horrifying to ponder.
IT’S TIME FOR NUMBER 10.
FEEL FREE TO STOP READING NOW AND GO BACK TO YOUR PEACEFUL LIFE IN BLISSFUL IGNORANCE, YOUR MIND FREE TO REST EASY THIS EVENING.
I WARN YOU, ONCE READ, IT CANNOT BE UNSEEN.
WELL, OKAY. BUT YOU CAN’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.
10. Jurassic World is the fourth highest grossing movie of all time
I’m sorry, I tried to stop you. But yes, Jurassic World is the fourth highest grossing movie of all time*. This just sums everything up, doesn’t it? The stupidity of humanity. The cold indifference of the universe. The complete lack of justice. I mean, did you see this fucking movie? (well, statistically speaking, you probably did.)
It’s such a garbage fire. The characters are boring, it’s mildly sexist throughout, Owen Grady is an asshole, the kid keeps doing that fucking creepy staring at girls thing, John Williams music is used completely inappropriately, the secretary lady is given the worst dinosaur death ever for no reason other than she’s not particularly maternal, they keep talking about using dinosaurs in the military, it’s shot in the most pedestrian way…
Jesus Christ, this movie sucked. Out of all the great movies ever made, people went to see this one. I saw it. Worse than that, I saw it in Imax 3D. I’m part of the problem. Who knows if I’ll ever be able to forgive myself. And they’re making a sequel. WE. ARE. ALL. DOOMED!
*This isn’t adjusted for inflation. One tiny flicker of light in the darkest of shadows.