“Let’s order pizza. On me,” Nathan saw the expression on Alex’s face as soon as he opened the door.
Laura leaped over to the computer.
“Let’s watch something trippy,” Laura suggested. “Oh, we should call Seth and see what he’s doing.”
She picked up the phone and Alex was amazed at the speed with which she dialed the number. Although they did have enough practice calling the number.
Seth said he wasn’t doing anything and would be over as fast as he could climb the two flights of stairs.
“I found this amazing documentary on the biggest things in space. It’ll blow your mind,” Nathan said as he set up the DivX player.
The opening of the documentary had a series of quick cuts of flying through space, to entering a Black Hole, to jutting in and out of an asteroid belt.
Alex felt like he was experiencing all of those things and that he was flying through space at ridiculously intense speeds.
“This was made for people on drugs,” Alex smiled.
Laura giggled, “I know.”
“The Cosmic Web,” the narrator began, “is one of the most mysterious and intriguing features of the Universe. Scientists believe that the Universe is held together by a framework of invisible strings of matter with pockets of void spotted throughout. The web is as big as the universe itself, measuring some 14 billion light years across-“
The image on the screen began panning out from our planet, out through the solar system, and out through the Milky Way, and then faster and faster it raced to finally encompass the entire Universe.
It did look like a web.
There were long threads of matter with nothing in the space between.
Alex suddenly had a crazy epiphany.
“Scientists are always looking smaller and smaller and smaller right? They did the molecule thing, DNA, and sub-atomic research, and now they’re coming up with stuff like string theory.”
“Yah,” Nathan said.
“But why aren’t we looking bigger?”
Nathan pressed pause on the documentary and looked at Alex, intrigued. “Go on.”
“We know that above our solar system is the galaxy, and above the galaxy are clusters of galaxies and so on and so on until we encompass the whole Universe, but what is beyond the Universe?”
“Well, we can’t really look at the whole universe because we’re blinded by the background microwave radiation from the Big Bang. Until we find a way to see through it, that is the extent of our Universe.”
Alex stopped and his eyes grew wide as he pondered, “What if our universe is only one cell.”
“That’s not an original idea at all, Alex.” Nathan took another hit.
“What if we’re all just a cell inside a larger organism?” Alex sat up excitedly, completely dismissing Nathan’s negativity.
“Oh shit! What if there are smaller universes in each of our cells!” Laura chimed in.
“That’s all very trippy guys, but what part would we play in the cell? Cells have a nucleus and cytoplasm and ribosomes, so what role is it that we play in this cell?” Nathan asked.
“Maybe we are the ribosomes, Nancy,” Laura said snippily. “or maybe we’re some kind of bacteria,” she said.
“Maybe we’re a virus!” Alex said and his eyes grew wider than he ever thought they could.
“Maybe,” Nathan laughed. “It’s trippy, I’ll give you that.”
He resumed the documentary. Next up was a discussion on Black Holes.
“A Black Hole is a region of space where the force of gravity is so strong that nothing can escape its pull once it has crossed the event horizon; not even light.”
This time Laura wigged out. She clawed at Nathan, ripping the remote away to pause the video. “What if Black Holes are portals to space outside our Universe. What if we are contained inside some kind of shell and the Black Holes are like our doorway to the outside.”
“Well, aren’t you destroyed when you enter them?” Alex asked.
“How does anyone know that? They’re just speculating. Sure, okay, what if you do get broken down into millions and millions of particles upon entering the Black Hole, but maybe you get reassembled on the other side. I mean when you send things by fax you have text on paper that’s digitized, broken down into information, and then the text is reassembled on a completely new paper on other end, right?”
“Do people still use fax machines?” Alex was filling another bowl.
“Assuming there is another end,” Nathan interjected.
“What’s with you being all Negative Nancy tonight?” Laura asked.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to be,” Nathan smiled. “I’m really high and chronically skeptical.”
Laura giggled. “I wonder what we would be on the other side? Maybe all the rules of physics are different there. Maybe we won’t breathe oxygen and we have to breathe Silicon or something like that.”
There was a knock on the door that made them all jump.
“It might be the pizza.”
Nathan walked over to the door and looked through the peephole.
It was Seth.
Nathan let him in and gave him a hug.
“Hey Seth,” Both Laura and Alex called from the couch.
“You’re missing an epic conversation about the possibility of our Universe being a single cell in a larger organism,” Nathan said.
Seth stopped. “Woah. That’s fucked up,” he laughed dopily as he moved to sit down beside his friends on the couch. “What if we’re part of some interstellar fish that’s floating through space? And what if something bigger than it eats the fish? Would we be digested and destroyed?”
There was another knock at the door, which jolted him again. This time it was the pizza.
They ate wordlessly. Each of them were staring out with unfocused eyes, contemplating the charged bolts of non-sequential thoughts that shot about the moist surface of their brains. Each of the friends had begun at the same point when they paused the documentary. But from there, each of them skipped from point to point, idea to idea, in disjointed and seemingly unrelated paths. Alex wasn’t consciously aware of his eating, but he’d already had two pieces. It wasn’t really a train of thought. It was more like riding some kind of pot infused bull that thrashed his whole being around from one thought to another trying to whip Alex off of its back. Alex was holding on to the rope at the weed bull’s neck with a white knuckled grip as it swung him around from thought to thought. The bull began to calm itself and the information encoded in the crackling electricity that buzzed around inside his head was overwhelmed with wonder and reverence.
“It makes me think,” Alex started quietly, but then cleared his throat and started again. His friends slowly disconnected from their own jerky thought paths to acknowledge that Alex was speaking. “It makes me think of how unimportant my problems are and how they’re really not actually problems but delusions of self-importance that distract me from the awareness of reality’s interconnectedness.”
No one said anything. They just stared at Alex.
“I mean, not that I feel I’m unimportant, that would be nihilistic. All organisms are important. But I wonder sometimes if the idea of homo sapiens’ superiority comes because we are subjectively experiencing our own lives. I wonder if that somehow makes us believe we are more important than other organisms we share a planet with. Is it natural selection? Is it just survival of the fittest and we’re just excellent specimens that have transcended the parameters that other organisms have been held to and we’ve reached a state of superiority through technology, invention, and creativity? Or is it a selfish, short-sighted rationalization for perpetuating an unsustainable system that benefits from the destruction of lesser organisms that we as homo sapiens feel entitled to exploit under the banner of civilization?”
“I think that’s why people don’t want to admit that we’re animals,” Laura said. “Think about it. We try so hard to remove our animalness, right? My Adolescent Psych professor had a theory about this although I’m not sure if he came up with it but whatever, the hair removal is part of the drive to look younger. As society changed what it preferred in a mate, the most attractive features become that of individuals who had characteristics that were youthful or even prepubescent. That’s why women make themselves look like twelve year olds by removing hair and using makeup. Before the 18th century this was unheard of, but that’s mainly due to the fact that, as the 19th century came on, we started changing many social values that meant men and women became much closer in age over time. This essentially caused a break in our evolutionary mating strategy; where it had once been fit men in their late twenties to early thirties that were marrying thirteen to fifteen year old women. The only way older women could maintain that evolutionary attraction was by appearing younger – and thus we have make-up and the removal of body hair. Removal of pubic hair was vastly accelerated by pornography in the 90s,” Nathan said.
“It’s interesting how the history of human sexuality has undergone so many different fluctuations in what a mate prefers in the opposite sex,” Laura said. “I also wonder if that’s why we, as one of the great apes, have less hair than our great apes brethren. Women sexually selected out the instances where their offspring would have more hair. After homo sapiens adapted sweating as a means of temperature regulation, fur became superfluous. And it’s interesting, like those razor ads for men, that body hair on both sexes is seen as unattractive and undesirable.”
“Except, for some reason, when it’s on a male’s head,” Alex said, suddenly insecure of his own thinning hairline. He adjusted himself in his seat and took another bite of pizza. “Then they make men feel as though lack of hair on the head somehow relates to a loss of their masculinity. It matters, apparently, where the hair is on a person’s body. That I find interesting too.”
“This societal aversion to body hair is totally linked with our distaste to any sort of acknowledgement of our animal roots. Society places human beings as separate from the animal kingdom and unique and conveniently superior,” Seth said.
“Or maybe it’s just marketing,” Nathan said. “Companies need to sell us a product that they are manufacturing so they create a need in our culture that will perpetuate the consumption of that product. ‘Oh, gross, your legs are hairy! Oh, gross, your back is hairy? but hey! look at this! We just so happen to be selling this razor that removes body hair that grows naturally on your body. Even though it grows back and regrows, and regrows and you’re always having to keep cutting it off, and buying disposable razors, or annoying expensive replacement cartridges every couple months. Because I mean, you wanna be loved and feel desired by other people, right?’,” Nathan scoffed and bit off a chunk of pizza.
“I long for the day when we cast off this yolk of artificial and unnecessary augmentation and just except each other exactly as the other is, without any expectations, without any desire to shape them into our concept of being, but to just experience reality as it is, unveiled and pure and objective,” Seth stared out again, about to swing his leg up on the bull for another non-linear ride through his brain, but Alex started to talk before he mounted the weed bull inside his head.
“It makes me think, how many of our jobs are about the creation of materials for an impermanent aesthetical standard that continues to alter as it bounces through human history depending on who is creating the propaganda? Who is it that forces us believe we must conform to this intangible and illusory, and often physically unrealistic standard,” Alex said and his friends nodded their agreement through puffed cheeks filled with clumps of partially chewed pizza. “We should look at who benefits from these implanted insecurities and what their true purpose is. These culturally enforced and imagined deficits are constructed in order to convince us that there are things about the way we naturally are, in our normal, unaltered state of being, that are repulsive and undesirable and, again, it just so happens that they have a product for sale that solves exactly that! If we think about what we really need: food, shelter, human interaction, medicine and healthcare, art, science,” Alex paused to chew another bite. “Where does plastic surgery or liposuction or laser hair removal or all of these more peripheral and superficial services come into play? What if we all worked together to farm? That ends world hunger! What if we all worked together to build infrastructure and ethically look at human equality? After all, we’re homo sapiens and the idea of nationalism and this ‘us’ and ‘them’ paradigm is woefully antiquated. BOOM. We just solved homelessness and poverty! What if instead of teaching children standard curriculum in public schools, we teach them how to live like positive human beings and instill in them a hunger for knowledge and experience? Then we get growth of knowledge and specialization and discovering the individual’s personalized strengths to add to humankind. Also then once they’ve ‘graduated’ human school, they can specialize and go into their trade but to me it doesn’t make sense that we try to churn out identical copies of human beings when we all learn so differently yet our success or failure is measured through a prism of some arbitrary standard. That helps with literacy, intelligence, equality, rationality, wow, and happiness! How awesome would it be to pursue a career or a trade that you were totally passionate about? Is this completely unrealistic? Am I missing some massive kink in my logic that I’m not seeing?” Alex looked at his friends.
“Alex,” Seth sparked up another bowl, “I think you just solved all the world’s problems.”
They all giggled.
“Too bad I won’t remember it tomorrow,” Alex took his fourth piece of pizza from the box.