Life the Universe and Everything – Don’t Panic!

In this series of posts I’m going to look at the human perspective and ask questions like ‘What does it mean to be human?’ or ‘How can I be a better Human?’ with a little sprinkling of ‘How can I be more comfortable as a human?’

In this mad world we’ve been enduring especially over the last few years people have become more stressed, more anxious about the future with lost livelihoods, jobs or sadly family members life has been tough and a step back to look at life is perhaps something that many will find some kind of sense among the chaos that we’re all having to endure.

Being the sci-fi nut I am I’m going to use a bit of a Sci-Fi slant on this. Think of it as looking down on ourselves using a Total Perspective Vortex or as an Alien looking down from above and offering a few tips that might give a few helpful tips on how to get through life’s little ups and downs.

Total Perspective Vortex

I’m going to ask you now to step into the total perspective vortex, this isn’t going to be pleasant. In the total perspective vortex you will see yourself from the perspective of the whole universe. The thing you will notice is that not only are you so insignificantly small, but your time in existence is almost immeasurably brief. Douglas Adams first came up with the total perspective vortex in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy it was such a crunching experience that destroyed the soul (much like Marvin).

While we might not find any total perspective vortex’s about anytime soon we can start to appreciate how short our lives are when consider that if a 10 kilometer long bookshelf represented the time the universe has been in existence, the time that the whole of humanity has been around would be about the thickness of 1 page of 1 book.

What is there to Worry About?

Also in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was the phenomenal advice to ‘Don’t Panic’. This advice while very good is something that Man Apes find very difficult to apply to their daily lives.

Why is that?

In this human life there seems to be a lot to worry about, impostor syndrome inflicts many of us with the fear of not being good enough. We only have to look at what’s been going on in the world over the last few years to find a number of reasons to get panicked about – A global pandemic, war, the economy, climate change, population explosion. All these things can get into our minds and fester a feeling of anxiety. There doesn’t always have to be a reason though – general anxiety can creep into our minds for no reason at all though, afflicting the sufferer with a constant feeling of dread which cannot be removed.

Anxiety is an emotion that our human brain uses to tell us that something is wrong, despite the cleverness of our brains it’s complexity means that it doesn’t always do the best job this and it get confused. When anxiety is left to run loose and unchecked then small things can turn into big things like this:

What if I don’t get my promotion?

If I don’t get my promotion then maybe I’m no good.

If I’m no good them maybe no one like me.

If no one likes me then I must be a bad person….

This kind of thinking is catastrophising and it doesn’t do us any good at all… raising our stress levels, leading to health issues it can be a problem if we let it.

We’re Only HUman?

One of the realities that we have to accept is that people are only human, descended from these distant Man Apes. Imperfect and irrational struggling to make good choices. Humans are born into this finite existence screaming and naked and spend our lives bumbling from one problem to the next and trying to convince ourselves that we have control over it. Trying to make everything perfect, we are asking a lot of ourselves.

In a way human existence could be considered a ridiculous joke, along the same satire as something from Douglas Adams. Looking at it in this way can maybe help us relax a bit, stop taking it so seriously. After all – no one get out alive.

Different Perspectives

Despite the soul crushing experience of the Total Perspective Vortex the cosmic perspective on life on Earth does help a great deal to bring many of the issues faced daily or even as a whole planet into a more manageable perspective. Astronauts have often written about how their experiences in space have brought a new perspective to life on Earth and they have returned realising that money, wealth and power ultimately mean nothing.

Carl Sagan famously wrote his speech on the Pale Blue Dot where after the grand tour mission the Voyager spacecraft looked back on the solar system. The Earth appeared as he called it “A mote of dust in a sunbeam”.

This perspective of looking down on the human race can bring a sense of perspective that usually wouldn’t be that apparent. A more Earth way to do this would be to imagine taking off and flying in a helicopter, looking down on life, looking down on yourself as you go about your day. Imagine how the problems seem from up there? Are they still as important?

Prospective Hindsight

Looking at life in this kind of way might all be well can good but it can also seem a bit detached from the realities that are being faced today. While the cosmic perspective might be helpful for some it might not be to all. Jumping into a Delorean to go forward in time machine to the future to look back at our lives might be a good way to also do this – but the way things are right now this isn’t all that possible, so why not try something similar with our imaginations?

Prospective hindsight is one a phrase that’s been coined to do just that. The way things are right now many of us look back and wonder what all the fuss was about in the past. Putting ourselves in the boots of our future, much older selves might bring a sense of relief and clarity when it’s considered that there might be a time in our future and wish that we could go back to this point in time, go back to this situation which right now seems so bad.

Then watch as the worry melts away…

Calming the Mind

Living more mindfully is a technique that can help deal with the thoughts that lead to anxiety and reduce the stress we feel. Meditation is the practice where by focusing on the present for a short time we can observe the thoughts within us come and go. Over time this practice can help the part of our brain that reacts to fight or flight to be less sensitive and help us deal with stressful situations in a better way.

Photo by Suraphat Nuea-on on

Mindfulness can be practised in a variety of ways, while walking, eating, taking time out are common ways and each of them can help bring a sense of peace to the present in our lives.

Going about life in a more mindful way opens up possibilities, with time and practice life slows down a little. The challenges that present themselves are suddenly not so surprising, or don’t seem so bad and this means responding to them more positively is easier and this in turn gives a more reasoned perspective that otherwise would have been missed. This alone can reduce the worry of life as suddenly it feels less of a drag and more as a personal challenge to improve.

Re-Framing What We Think and Feel

Worry and anxiety is always going to be around, there’s always something outside of out control. The dream of control is the illusion that binds us to this anxiety. Realising things are outside of the reach of control is the first step towards peace. Therefore the anxiety that comes with this is more of a signal from the brain that something is wrong. Maybe the situation can’t be controlled but it can focus the mind onto something we can do.

Making anxiety a bad emotion and trying to get rid of it completely is harmful and would blind us the the things in life that need to change. This lack of motivation would render people to no better than that of a living zombie, taking them only to those base drives in life that would be impossible to resist. When thinking of it as a signal it can help us to work out what the brain is telling us and to try and remedy it. Identifying that something is wrong is after all the first step to correcting it.

I hope this post has been helpful, let me know what your thoughts are in the comments and remember – Don’t Panic!

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Inspiration for this came from Derren Brown’s Bootcamp for the Brain Podcast. I hold no copyright to any material from this.


10 thoughts on “Life the Universe and Everything – Don’t Panic!

  1. I find a lot of peace looking up at the stars. It helps put things in perspective. Looking at the stars reminds me just how very small we are, but at the same time it reminds me how very special we are. Life is an extremely rare thing in the vastness of our universe.

    Liked by 3 people

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