What If None of This is Real?
Life’s a Mystery Left to My Imagination
This morning, I woke early.
I was born a night owl, so my inner clock was never set for early to bed early to rise. Occasionally, I fool myself and fall asleep early only to end up outside just as the sun is rising.
Barefoot and in my pjs, I sip my coffee in wonder. Why have I missed so many summer mornings like this?
It’s the quiet, I think. Not even the birds are making a sound. The sun is just beginning to appear. There’s something almost timeless about these moments. I feel insignificant and I love that feeling. My thoughts and desires, my dreams and worries, my very existence is nothing more than a momentary blip on the cosmic screen.
Once again, I find that comforting.
My mind begins to wander, creating back stories to unknown possibilities. What lies ahead, where did we come from, is this even real. Feeling unimportant frees me from obligation and responsibility. Here today gone tomorrow is a mysterious truth that has the power to put things in perspective. Life is too full of mystery for me to understand it.
I can’t recall if I asked to be born, but here I am.
I’ve often said that if someone had approached me before I was born and offered me the gift of life, I might have turned them down. I’d certainly need to think it over for a while first before accepting the gift. What if I did have a choice and I just can’t remember?
Could it have happened like this?
Them: Hey, have I ever got a deal for you this morning. How would you feel about being born next year?
Me: I don’t know. Things are pretty quiet and comfortable right now.
Them: Hold on a minute. Let me finish. You don’t want quiet and comfortable when you can have LIFE. Just think about it. You’ll be born a girl on earth. You’ll have all kinds of adventures. Everything will be new and interesting. There won’t be a minute that goes by that you won’t be FEELING alive. Let me tell you something about those feelings. They call them emotions and they go from high to low but man what a rush. When you hit one of those highs, there’s nothing else in the world quite like it.
Me: Hmmmm … Well, I’ll admit sometimes I do get a little bored. Every day is pretty much like another for me now. What’s the catch? I know you’ve already said that I’ll be born a girl. Is that a good thing? Do I get to pick my parents, where I’m born, what language I’ll speak, my IQ, my looks, anything?
Them: Well, uh, um, no.
Me: What do I get to choose?
Them: Well, uh, um, nothing. It’ll all be a surprise.
Me: A surprise, eh? What are the odds that I’ll get assigned a pretty good situation?
Them: I’ll freely admit, it’s all a crap shoot. You’ll have little control over much of anything. I can tell you this, if you’re lucky enough to be born into the right situation, things can be awesome. It’s a gamble, but if you draw the winning lottery number, you’ll be set for life.
Me: So it’s kind of like gambling? I see. What if I don’t draw the winning number? What then?
Them: Well, let me tell you first about what the winning number could mean for you. Are you ready? You’ll be assigned parents who are awesome. They’ll be thrilled to find out that you’re on the way. They’ll raise you with tenderness, give you wonderful childhood memories, and support your talents and interests. They’ll be well off financially, so you’ll get a great start in life. You know, they’ll be able to send you to the best colleges, set up a trust fund, help you with a down payment on a house, and when they die leave you a shitload of money. You’ll be good looking because you inherited their genes, generally healthy, although everyone dies eventually no matter what. Oh, and you’ll be able to travel, own lots of nice things, and probably fall in love with some bloke who can provide for you and your kids well.
Me: Wow! all of that AND falling in love? Almost sounds like a fairy tale. What if I lose the gamble? Then what?
Them: (clears throat) Well, you COULD get a set of parents who don’t want you.
Me: Some parents don’t want kids?
Them: Lots of parents never even choose to be parents. It just happens to them accidentally and they’re not always good at making all the adjustments needed to take care of a baby.
Me: Wow! That seems like a flawed plan for producing the next generation. Sort of hit or miss.
Them: Yeah, it’s a crap shoot like I said. But if you hit the jackpot, remember, then you’ll be living beachside in a beautiful house. People will envy you. Everyone will want to be just like you. You’ll be beautiful and smart as well as rich.
Me: Could I end up losing out on everything? I mean how bad could it get?
Them: Well, I gotta be honest with you. It can be pretty grim. If you lose, you can lose on a scale from bad to horrible.
Me: Horrible how?
Them: You could be born with a bad disease or into extreme poverty. Your parents might live in a war torn country and get killed before they’ve raised you. Or you could start out in a nice middle class setting but end up on the streets as a homeless person addicted to drugs or mentally ill. I’ve even heard of freak things like this little boy who was assigned to a halfway decent family but one day was playing in a mud puddle right after a rainstorm. Well, to make a long story short, he got a drop of water in his nose and as it turned out the droplet had a brain eating amoeba in it. The boy died.
Me: (gulp) I see.
Them: I know it sounds creepy, but MOST people don’t die that way.
Me: They don’t?
Me: How do most people die?
Them: OMG! There’s a zillion ways to die. Just know that death happens to everyone, rich or poor. It’s the great equalizer.
Me: So, it’s a good thing?
Them: Yeah, in a way.
Me: How long will I live?
Them: That’s completely unpredictable, too. You could die in the womb or live to be one hundred. But all living creatures die on earth. That’s just the way it is. From birds to bees to trees to fleas to boys and girls and men and women, everyone dies.
Me: Well, it sounds interesting but very risky. If you don’t mind, since I have a choice in the matter, I’ll just stay where I’m at. Things are quiet here but I’m safe.
Them: Really? You’re going to pass up this amazing gift I have to offer? WOW! I have no words.
Me: Yeah, if I really have a choice? I mean I’ve heard about the gift of life before, but this is the first time that I’ve been approached. I’ll admit, it’s strangely alluring, but I doubt I’d draw a winning hand.
Them: You’re a sucker. You know that? Do you really think that you have a choice? (Laughing uncontrollably) You guys are always like that. Too cautious. If we waited for volunteers, the planet would barely have enough people to work in the factories and fields.
Me: What are you saying? That I don’t have a choice? What about free will?
Them: Free will? What’s that? You’re just a pawn in a cosmic simulation. You’re not even real. You don’t exist without our ability to imagine you. You’re only here for our entertainment. Free will. Ha ha ha ha. Too funny.
Yeah, I really do wake up early, sit on my patio, drink my coffee, watch the sun come up and imagine such scenarios.
Wanna hear something funny? If I stay up late and sleep until eight like I’m wired to do, my imagination is even more fertile. I kid you not. Apparently, I didn’t get to choose how I was wired. I married a man who is wired to go to bed early and rise early. We’ve been together since we were kids. Neither one of us have been able to change our preferred sleep habits. That’s why I’m always amazed when I wake up early and find myself experiencing a sunrise. Why don’t I do this more often, I wonder.
It’s almost as though I don’t have as much free will as I was promised.
Teresa is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.