You think it’ll write me back?

Dear Universe,

Hey. How’ve you been? I heard you got some new black holes. It’s a good look for you, it really is.

It’s hard to make small talk with infinity, so I’ll just cut to the chase, if that’s alright.

Shit is getting weird down here in our neck of the…you. It’s difficult for me to say whether it’s more good than bad or vice versa. Pretty subjective question, that. So I just thought I’d ask you about it, seeing as how you’ve probably got a bigger big-picture view on the whole thing than I do.

I know that you seek balance. Chemistry, physics, math, all of what we understand to be your basic building blocks – they rely on balance, equilibrium, consistency. Which are, I suppose, not to be confused with complacency, a thing that seems to be pretty well restricted to mankind. Maintenance of the status quo isn’t the same thing as balance or peace or harmony. Change is good. I guess my question is: how out of balance can we get before we’re broken?

Maybe I’m being a flighty secular humanist with spiritual tendencies here, but I’d hate to think that we have to blow ourselves up before we can see that fighting is stupid. And we fight over every little thing. Did you know that? Do you see us destroying each other? Because even the ants scrapping over crumbs are fighting for their lives, in their own way. That’s probably how we seem, isn’t it? From your perspective, we’re just more atoms. That’s cool. I get it. You’re not wrong.

Problem is, we have all this pesky society. We’ve created culture. No, not like bacteria. Hear me out. Culture, by its very nature, is made of people grouped together by similarities. Which is all fine and good. Seemed like a decent system, back in the day. Hunters with hunters, fishermen with fishermen, farmers with farmers, etc. But we spread and we grew and eventually there wasn’t enough stuff or enough room. There was conflict. Nothing brings out disparity between groups like a good conflict. One guy fighting one guy? No big deal. Village versus village? A little more intense. Higher death count. And now? Well, to be frank, there are too fucking many of us. We’re all up in each other’s faces. Groups of countries against other groups of countries and we’ve got bombs, dude. Yeah. Bombs. Big ones. Some of them fly. It’s crazy, right? It’s one thing to fight over water or food or something concrete. I win, I take the thing. Simple. It makes sense. But what bugs me is that now we seem to be fighting over things that aren’t even real. Things that we got in our heads somehow and by this point we don’t even remember how they got there. And it’s not all of us. Some of us handle our differences quite well. It’s the ones who don’t that are causing problems. Causing imbalance. Disturbances in the force, if you will.

Like, for example, we have all these fun little mythologies that were put in place to explain your existence and your functions before we were smart enough to figure that shit out. There are tons of them, some similar, some radically different, most of them in some way beautiful. And we take these stories about life being a gift and love conquering all, we tuck them away in our hearts and our minds, they become a part of who we are. Then, inevitably, we run across people who believe something different. We tell them they’re wrong. Their wrongness seems so obvious. So logical. We make up elaborate punishments for their wrongness, both earthly punishments and more ethereal, cosmic ones. We slay. We torture. We scream. We spit. We make signs. We send letters. We pass legislation. We drop bombs. For what? Because my made-up story is better than yours. Clearly. So we fight about it.

It’s not just religion, although admittedly a lot of our other problems can be traced back to religion in one way or another. There are a bunch of different kinds of us. Colors, shapes, sizes. We’re a buffet of beauty, us human people. A fucking smorgasbord of awesome. And yet. Some people believe that their group is inherently better than another based solely on the way they look. It’s baffling to me. I’ve never understood it, not even a little. But there it is, in our history, indelible and shameful. I think we’ve gotten our shit together here in America, at least on the surface, at least according to the law. Even that took us a while. We put people in chains and made them work like animals. We slaughtered them because we wanted their stuff or their land and since they were less than human we had the right to just take it. We made them build railroads and sink mines and used them up like so many sledgehammers. We killed and raped and pillaged in the name of progress. But whose progress? No one thought ahead, did they? To the future of a nation built on hate and greed and inequality. They didn’t think how it would affect us to have that on our cultural conscience, probably because they so believed they were right that they never thought it would be any other way. It’s deep-seated, this fuckery. Now there are those of us who abhor that kind of ignorant hatefulness, and those of us who wholeheartedly embrace it, continuing the long tradition of racist redneck bullshit. Both sides have the right to freedom of speech. So we fight about it.

But wait, the nonsense goes on and on. We’re divided, fairly evenly, into male and female of the species. You may not care about this fleshy stuff, what with all your galaxies and meteors and shit, but I assure you that it’s very important to us. Somewhere along the way, as inexplicably as with race or religion, the women of the world got shuffled into the “less than” category. Probably because of the whole baby-having thing. She has to take care of a squealing larval human? She’d better stick close to the house, then. Hey, while she’s there, why doesn’t she do all cooking and cleaning and sewing and managing every single aspect of the homelife? Except for work. Or owning land. And the occasional blowjob would be great, too. Because she’s not good for anything else. Like the racism, much of that crap has abated. But not all of it, not when you scratch down deep enough. Women can work now, but in many cases they don’t get paid as much as men, and there are fewer of them in high-profile positions or positions of power. Women have some degree of control over their reproductive rights, but they have to slog through tons of bureaucratic red tape and imposed arbitrary morality to get that control. Women are beaten by their partners. Women are raped. Women are sexually harassed. And they can take that asshole to court now, but they’re the ones who have to come up with the burden of proof. Gotta be thin. Gotta be sexy. Gotta be smart. But not too much of any of those, or there’ll be hell to pay. So we fight about it.

Speaking of which, all this mammal on mammal action seems complicated, doesn’t it? We’re kind of obsessed with sex down here. Men and women, and men and men, and women and women, there are tons of fun combinations. But then there’s this whole debate about what’s “natural” or “right” when it comes to sex. And it’s ridiculous. It’s an empty, fallacious argument. Straight couples have kinky sex and gay couples have boring old-people sex and frankly I don’t give a shit what anybody’s doing in their bedroom. Or kitchen. Or backyard. Why should I care? I care because so many people can’t look beyond the sex itself and see the relationship. The relationship is the part that matters. Love is what matters. That’s why we made up all those myths and stories, to feel like what we have is good, is built on love and not on rocks and quarks and molecules. No offense. I know molecules are kind of your thing. But love? Man, that’s the good stuff. And the fact that any human person can look at another human person and say that their love is wrong? Or that they don’t deserve to be loved? Or that they don’t have the right to have someone they love hold their hand as they lay dying? That is some evil, cold-hearted shit. But people can’t stand to look at the similarities (home, family, love, sex, the basics of any relationship) when they’re so focused on their differences. And so we fight about it.

How did we get here? How can we scrap it all and start over? How do we erase this preconceived bullshit and really, truly convince people that we’re all the same? No matter what color we are? No matter how old or tattooed or scarred or deformed or disabled? No matter what genitals we were born with or choose to get later? No matter who we have sex with or fall in love with? No matter what gods we worship? Or don’t? Why do we have to fight about it? Why can’t we, at the very, very least, peaceably agree to disagree? Why do we have to hurt each other? Especially over ideas, un-provable and evanescent? Why does everything have to be right or wrong, black or white, cut and dry? I mean, you’re the Universe. You understand subtlety. You understand harmony. You seek balance. Why can’t we act more like you?

Having said all of that, I don’t want you to think that it’s all doom and gloom down here. I know I’ve made it sound bleak. But it’s not, most days. There are things on this planet even you would be shocked by, they’re so beautiful. There’s music and art and the communities that create and support them. There are babies and puppies and raucous family dinners. There are rainy days. There’s laughter. There’s poetry. There’s coffee. There’s beer. There are long drives on deserted highways and bad bands in crowded bars. There’s madness and death. There’s listening to someone breathe while they sleep. There’s watching plants grow from seeds, eat sunshine, and poop out air. There are little kindnesses, smiles and hugs, connections between people that can’t ever be broken. There’s love. Oh, there is so much love. Small miracles, all around us, all the time. Inescapable. They bind us. No matter who we are. I wish we could see each other through the lens of these countless amazing things and realize that we’re all just interlocking parts of you, Universe. We’re lucky that way. We’re breathtaking by default.

Anyway. Thanks for listening. Hope all that spinning and expanding is going well for you. Keep it up. And get back to me in another fifty years or so, I’ve got some atoms you can have.

All my love,

Vanessa