The Egg

The great moral leaders throughout time have sought a narrative that could drive humanity one step closer to compassion and connectedness — one step further from the divisiveness and pain that comes from focusing too much on ourselves. What follows is one of the most profound short stories I’ve ever read. It contains parts of a philosophy that I’ve tried to adopt, and one that I hope you will also consider if you haven’t already.

I’m copying this story in full from http://www.galactanet.com/oneoff/theegg_mod.html.

The Egg

By: Andy Weir (author of the book that led to the recent movie blockbuster, “The Martian”)

 *****************

You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I… I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time.

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.

 *****************

That’s where the story ends, but there are several adaptations which you can watch on YouTube. Here’s one…

I may not be able to convince myself enough in the veracity of the Bible to use its lessons as the central foundation for morality, but I can take the good where I find it. While there’s no evidence that Andy Weir’s short story is true (we probably aren’t collectively a budding God and we probably aren’t reincarnations of each other), I find great moral wisdom in its central message. It harmonizes with my belief that there’s no justification for being certain that we would be any different from our enemies if we were born as they were.

If we could believe that our neighbors literally might be, in some real sense, ourselves (and they could because we could have been born as them) — that would help us struggle against those naturally selfish tendencies to forcefully promote our desires and opinions over theirs. It would make the call to “love our neighbors as ourselves” both more obvious to secularists and more attainable for everyone. Collectively, such a fast-track to genuinely caring about our friends and our enemies would change the world.

Every person you can think of is a person, like you are. We share hopes, joys, fears and pains. If you could master the art of seeing your interlocutors as literally yourself (with the exception of a few circumstances outside of your control), would your words change? Mine often would.

Gentleness and respect,
—Russell

6 comments

  1. Yes! I read this (‘The Egg’ story – not your post – obviously!) just over a week ago. And pretty much my thoughts are what you have written. I try and take it with me, into what I do each day. I fail miserably, but I try.

    I shared it with two friends separately, hoping for a conversation – one an atheist, the other a christian. Got more out of the christian than the atheist… I wondered if it was due to the atheist already having a more humanistic view point and not having any christian basis or knowledge, to be able to discuss it, or it was already intrinsic to her own nature. Or due to the christian having an issue not with the idea of it but with the ‘truth’ of it. She thought it was well done and was a good way to cause people to think more.

    Hope that made sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi JJ!

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope you continue exposing others to such thoughtful ideas. Deep conversations about what we value and how we act towards one another are deeply human conversations. They span (non)religious divides and are almost always worth the time. 🙂

      Gentleness and respect,
      —Russell

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A utterly interesting text …. apart from the car accident. Would it be different if she/he died peacefully when sleeping and meet you after? You have something of a ‘serial killer’ in the back of your mind! You are always thinking people must die by fire, water, lack of oxigene or some other accident. This is not normal because it appeals to Nature or some other entity to do what you desire but you are not to do by yourself.

    And now what i think to be essence of your thought:

    I really don’t think that it had ever been ‘moral leaders’. Morals is not a question of leadership – like ‘democrats’ want us to believe – but the result consuetudinary conclusions through the various experiences of real life depend ending of on how people deals with the places they were born in and the evolution those places have attained as days – day+night – go on. I truly believe that primitive humans are much more closer and connected among them then we turn to be across the discover of Time – a surely not less important discovery than Einstein theory – and the ambition of classifying and possessing Space.

    Though Ethics is more linked to the beauty of life, to our desire to make it as beautiful as the Nature to which we belong and surrounds us. But Ethics is an elitist behavior because it depends on how you look at Nature – if you ever watch it and praise it, either you are rich or poor Nature is always there in front of you… unlesse you you are put somewhere in prison but even there you may dream of it the way you have known and felt it.

    Morals are what complex societies – and society always imposed itself to the individual either for good or bad – need to attain, by education, what Ethics gives you for sensitiveness. Morals try – though they often failed because to put everyone thinking and acting according rules they had not been called to approve is a very difficult and sometimes inhuman task – to make communitarian and social life easier to get through. I personally hate ‘formules de politesse’ but I agree that if you are supposed to say something in extraordinary moments of other people’s life they are very useful. The same with moral rules and their importance in what education is concerned. You may well forget etiquette but you can’t do without education! because education – and I am not thinking of instruction…- is the way you are thought to be kind and agreeable to make as happy as possible those around you, your ‘proximo’. Not that kind of happiness everyone seems to know the concept though keeping look desperately for the content! but the one that gives you the feeling of how peace lives in the bottom of your heart and gives you strength and gentleness to go ahead over the worst problems society puts before you.

    The ‘alter ego’ José Luís said something quoting my very good friend João Resina that made me remember something he used to which I was, and am, in total disagreement. He said, and that is quite right, that Jesus didn’,t teach other morals besides recommending: ‘love each other and do whatever you want’! But we must not forget, even if we don’t appreciate Jews very much, that Jesus was educated in the principles and values of the Jewish moral code, agains whose implicit injustices he rebels and went as far as giving his life.

    But I think the Love Jesus referred to had nothing to do, or very little, with all the ‘feelings’ we now see included in love. Love, nowadays as almost the same meaning as’ like’. It is common to hear young people of certain social groups to say about a song or strawberry ice-cream thy listen or eat that they ‘loved’ it. It happens that that we like whatever it is that gave us pleasure! We, I…, like eating chocolates and ice-cream, we like to go shopping, we like to go to the cinema or the opera, we like to entertain or being entertained by our friends, so on.But all this have nothing to do with love, at least the Love Jesus referred to that implies that you love yourself to ‘love the others as you love yourself’, and it is impossible, unless you are a monster without sensitiveness, that you love yourself just because we do whatever satisfies your desires and apetites and, as a consequence, you want other people behave the same way so that we are all happy liking each other the way we want to live.

    This amoral way happens sometimes to be quite interesting for a while. You are different, you have the guts to do what others don’t dare to, you are a successful man, and led a bright life. But all these characteristics are preceded by means that often contradict the ends. We may talk of Napoleon, Hitter, or even Ricardo Salgado or some other banker or entrepreneur.

    From what we knew – and now we see everyday ‘biographies’ of Jesus based in credible documentation – Jesus led an austere life.the life of an humble and poor man whose only interest was to free the people of God he believed to have created them from the injustice they suffered under Jews and Romans. It is possible that Jesus had had sex each day with a woman in each place he stopped to sleep or res, or to have chosen one of his disciples to to be with him. That lacks absolutely of importance! It is comprehensible that a man who lived in absolutely solitude, with noone to share is thoughts and suffering – the dis disciples followed him, believed that he had ‘something’ of the Divine Truth but they didi not understand him. They just believe him! Such a man might surely had often felt the need of the heat of another person, being man or human, someone that gave him an instant of peace, the opportunity to feel the glory of death that is so present in the culmination of sex. And that , especially at his time, had no importance unless the woman was married. We know how things went on like that all over Middle Ages. Poverty is somehow promiscuous because sex is free and didn’t depend on comfort or decoration or beauty. It was just a pleasure, the only one they could afford. Things began to change in Renaissance inspired not only by the urban convivial with wealth but also inspired by the Church that identified Beauty with Good.

    Though Jesus didn’t left anything written – I think…- he didi not defined the concept of “Love”, a basilar concept to support his view of human morals. And nowadays, when so many awful things that damage other people’s lives are done in the name of love, I think that is time to believe that a Justice that is not based on moral percepts is a justice without references – as we contact everyday…- and so inexistent.

    To feel happy making people ‘happy’ no matter how or for how long is to mistrust them and ourselves.

    As to the idea that all of us takes inside all the virtues and errors of others iI think it to be true. As I think that we are all linked to past and future lives, not by our descend but for what we have learned and to what we have belonged in past life and that, as you said, we are here ‘maturing’ for future life.

    Gentleness and respect,

    MC

    > No dia 29/11/2015, às 11:06, russell & pascal <comment-reply@wordpress.com > escreveu: > >

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