If you don't happen to believe in a supreme being which governs fate and benevolently looks down upon our daily struggles, there is an amazingly cruel irony to our existence. I call it the Meat Irony, and it boils down to this:

We have been endowed with the ability to comprehend our own insignificance.

We humans are intelligent, loving, sentient, creative, emotional creatures: we contemplate our own existence and strive for infinite growth and understanding. Yet we are such delicate and finite creatures, limited by our biology. Consider:

  • We can be damaged or killed with the greatest of ease.
  • Our inherent creativity, intellect and kindness--things that make us great--can be disrupted or destroyed by a myriad of influences.
  • Our lifespan, compared with that of our surroundings, is infinitesimal, even under the most favorable conditions.
  • There are mysteries locked within the Universe that might never be understood by the likes of us.
The Meat Irony motivates a massive amount of thought and discourse, notably in science fiction, religion and philosophy. Science fiction contemplates (among other things) immortality, the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life, interstellar travel--all things that may always elude us as a consequence of our biology. And religion strives to provide answers to some of the deepest philosophical questions that arise from the Meat Irony: "Where did we come from?" "Why are we here?" "What will happen to us when we die?" "Why do bad things happen?"

This irony does not apply to those anticipating eternal bliss upon leaving this life. To be precise, it may indeed apply, but is not as relevant to how the saved live their lives.

I'm pretty sure that the late great Douglas Adams spent some time pondering all this. In one of his books, we learned about the total perspective vortex, a hideously barbaric device that clearly demonstrates its victims' complete insignifigance in the universe. People placed inside this contraption go totally and irretrevably insane, confirming the idea (paraphrasing Adams) that the one thing we definitely can't afford is a sense of perspective.

If you recognize the existence of the Meat Irony, you may find yourself in a state of abject denial, wallow in self pity because you don't matter, or engage in a lifelong search for a meaning of life that takes all this into account. Try starting with Gandhi: "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." Good luck!

It's called the Meat Irony as a reference to Terry Bisson's fascinating and humorous "They're Made Out of Meat" dialog.

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