Listen. Think. Speak. Write.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Noticing the Universe

I am a bit obsessed with death. There I said it.  I often struggle to fall asleep because I can't quite get my mind off of it—when, how, and then what? Obviously, it doesn't stop me from actually living, but I just have so much to do, so many things to see, you know?  I think you do. I continue to blame it on my mid-life crisis, and I hope it'll fade soon. In the meantime, I blog about the purpose of my life and share all my struggles with you. Enjoy! 

A few months ago, a friend posted this blog link on Facebook, and I believe she linked it in the comments of my blog at some point, too.  I found the message that the universe doesn't care about about me and that I should do epic shit as a result to be equal parts depressing and inspiring.  Perhaps, that's why I've been so focused on lists and what I have yet to do.  It's certainly one of the reasons I hope to publish my fiction.

Then comes John Green.  He makes me think maybe how I'm defining epic shit is limited. I've enjoyed his work for a while, but his widely popular The Fault in Our Stars was released this month. Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief which I contend is one of the best books of all time, said on the back flap, "A novel of life and death and the people caught in between . . .  You laugh, you cry, and then you come back for more."  Yup, sounds about right to me.

It once again raises the question of the relationship between humans and the universe, something not taken lightly when the main characters are terminally ill.  Near the end, Augustus sums up the most valuable messages I took away from the novel.  He said, "I want to leave a mark." Sigh. I identify with that sentiment. That little piece of immortality despite the inevitability of our mortality. But then he argues that leaving a mark does as much to scar the universe. He says of Hazel:

People will say it's sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But … Isn't that the real heroism? Like the doctors say: First, do no harm.

The real heroes anyway aren't the people doing things; the real heroes are people NOTICING things, paying attention. The guy who invented the smallpox vaccine didn't actually invent anything.  He just noticed that people with cowpox didn't get smallpox (p. 312).

What I love is the idea that to do anything worthwhile in this life, you have to pay attention first.  You must listen more and see more and feel more.

I don't think it means you stop doing, but it changes why. Doing something because you noticed it needed doing usually turns out better than doing something because you wanted to be noticed for doing it.

Then again, in today's world, paying attention may well be epic in and of itself.  I invite you to put yourself on notice with me.

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