Happy New Year

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (sentience@pobox.com)
Fri, 25 Dec 1998 15:04:45 -0600

It's that time of year again!

As the counter changes digits, it's a time to rejoice in the fact that humanity has gone another entire year without blowing itself up. It's a time to look forward to another year of technological progress and bitter, futile, political disputes over irrelevant matters. As we celebrate the random division of an arbitrary time period, it's a time to avoid thinking about the true twenty-billion-year chronology of the Universe. It's a time to try to forget the unthinkable vastness of the space between stars and celebrate whatever microscopic significance our infinitesimal lives might have.

This festival of passing time reminds us of our ephemeral lives, like candles flaring up whitely for a moment and then diminishing to a red glow, sinking until even the embers fade. As the Earth completes another cycle around the Sun, we rejoice in the repetition of the ancient, futile pattern of birth and reproduction and death. Let us celebrate the irrevocable passing of another year of wasted time, another year of missed opportunities, another year of broken dreams.

It's a time when we accumulate years of debt on our credit cards to mask our true selfishness. It's a time to brighten our meaningless existences with mercantile frenzies of acquisition. It's a time when carols of love and hope deny our true loneliness and despair. It's a time when false smiles and ostentatious declarations of friendship hide the dark pits of fear and hatred that lurk in our souls. It's a time when shouted sermons try desperately not to acknowledge that we're all evil to the bone. It's a time to recite insincere prayers to a bleak and uncaring Universe.

It's a time when our forced, nervous laughter tries to drown out the sound of hydrogen freezing in the interstellar void. It's a time when the radiant warmth of a fire or a loved one makes us forget, for a brief moment, the bitter three-degree-Kelvin cold of the endless night.

               Happy New Year
           from Eliezer Yudkowsky,
              Adept of Despair.


"I like the stars. It's the illusion of permanence, I think. I mean,
they're always flaring up and caving in and going out. But from here, I
can pretend... I can pretend that things last. I can pretend that lives
last longer than moments. Gods come, and gods go. Mortals flicker and
flash and fade. Worlds don't last; and stars and galaxies are transient,
fleeting things that twinkle lke fireflies and vanish into cold and
dust. But I can pretend."
 - Neil Gaiman, Sandman #48 

        sentience@pobox.com         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.