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counseling austin

Existential Dilemma: The Universe vs. Mud-Pies

Why am I here? What happens when I die? If E really equals mc squared (Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: E=mc2), then do I ever really stop existing? If not, what happens to my thoughts? my consciousness? even my soul? Soul? Do I have one of those? How do I make life matter more? How do I prepare for my own death? How do I make sense of life in terms of death? How do I stop freaking out about what life is like? And how do I stop worrying about death? What if the universe is actually a multiverse? What if our existence is actually some cosmic 7th grader’s science experiment? All existential questions.

The innocence of youth “gets it”

Even young children may come up with some existential questions that tie our adult minds in knots. I remember that as a child, I was about 6 or 7, I asked what happened to the me that ‘sees’ things if I die – would my ‘seeing, hearing, feeling’ just pop up in somebody else, as their own ‘seeing, hearing and feeling? Would my experience of life simply ‘turn into’ or ‘merge with’ somebody else’s experience of life? I was hard pressed to find the answers my innocent mind was asking, but it didn’t matter since I also preoccupied with making mud-pies and playing with bugs.

It’s this childish nature that seems to sometimes understand that paradox . . . it’s the playful child (or the child within the adult) who responds to the koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” by smacking his/her forehead with one hand, not really caring if she/he gets ‘it’ right or not.

We will not know all the answers, but we can still be ok

These are all questions, just a few of many, many, many others that at some point in our lives, we all wind up asking ourselves. The answers are not always very clear, and most often, they differ among individuals and even change for each person throughout their lifetime. Taking the time to consider these questions, and becoming more comfortable with NOT always having a final answer helps the individual to find a sense of peace and clarity that sets the stage for true happiness and peacefulness.

Consider this (I don’t remember who first said this, but it is very true): There are 3 ways to see things in terms of what can be known:

  1. The Known – This is what we already know. Easy, right?
  2. The Unknown – This is the unknown, but knowable (i.e. it can be learned)
  3. The Unknowable – This is the one that creates existential anxiety as our imagination tries to fill in the blank. Because these things cannot be learned or known, mud-pies and bug obstacle courses become great distractions!