A Man Said to the Universe
By Stephen Crane
A man said to universe:
"Sir, I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."
This is one of my favorite poems. Even though it's pretty short, I think it's wonderfully poignant. The image of someone indignantly asserting his existence to a vast and uncaring universe seems to me at once futile and beautiful, and I just love the idea of a tiny speck of dust trying to justify his existence to an unimaginably massive and indifferent universe. I think it's a struggle that all of us have in some way, shape, or form experienced- the kind of existential conflict that led to Camus musing so morbidly yet wonderfully casual "should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?" After all, we all want to feel important, and there is nothing that makes us feel less important than realizing that we are but insignificant specks of mostly carbon existing and conscious for a fleeting moment in time in an immeasurable amount of space.
I am reminded of an excellent Calvin & Hobbes comic:
I think all of us can, on some level, empathize with Calvin. The scariest universe, after all, is not a hostile universe, but an indifferent one. There is a kind of beauty in struggling forward in a hostile universe, but nothing but emptiness in a meaningless, indifferent universe. It is a scary thought that our greatest triumphs and disasters and our greatest joys and sufferings are swiftly forgotten and almost meaningless in the grand scheme of things, and so we all want to assert the significance of our existence, pretending as though we are more than "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam..."