Shorts: The Call of the Void – (L’appel du vide)

Shorts: The Call of the Void – (L’appel du vide)

You’ve had a great day at work. Perhaps someone complimented your appearance, or your hard work received the recognition you feel it deserves. You’re going home to your favourite meal, and since you’re ahead in all your chores, there is little to do but put your feet up, and relax the night away. You stand at the train station, as a light rain pours down, with a smile on your face as you think of all these simple delights that await you. At some point, you glance over, and see that a train is approaching. It is not your train, and it does not stop at this station so it’s going at a fairly high speed. And although you are happy, a coldness washes over you. You stare blankly at the lights on the front of the train. And from somewhere in the attic of your mind, you suddenly think, “Jump.”

It’s a thought and a whisper and a command all at once. “Jump… Jump onto the tracks. Right. Now.”

The train blazes by. It’s gone undisturbed. The train driver is still smiling, completely unaware of what you just thought about doing. You watch the train for longer than usual, before staring blankly ahead. What just happened? Why did you think that?

L’appel du vide. The Call of the Void.

A french term, referring to that feeling we get, even for a brief moment, where we just think – “I could do something terrible in every sense of the word right now. For no particular reason at all.”

It can range from the example I’ve given above, to thinking you could just crash your car into a tree while the kids argue in the back. Or perhaps that you could push your beloved friend over a mountainside as you both stand enjoying the view. It could be to cause damage to yourself, or to a loved one, or just generally do something horrible, like knocking an ice cream cone from the hands of a child, simply because you can.

While this is a scary thought to think about, and we often feel at our most insane in these moments, the good news is… we all have them. You are not bad. We’ve all thought about doing something like that, and sometimes frequently. But most importantly… it’s completely normal. You’re not saying you WILL do them, or even thinking you should. It’s just a combination of a sudden feeling of power revealing itself at an opportune moment. It’s a sudden realisation that in this moment, you have control, and a power to do anything, regardless of whether it’s good or not.

It’s actually beautiful in a way, because for a brief second, we feel truly empowered. It just manifest’s itself negatively, because thankfully we don’t often think these thoughts, and so we seize our brief moment to do so.

The next time you do have one of these moments, be comforted by the fact that it is so common place, the French have a name for it. Be comforted knowing the kindest people you know, have thought these things also. And be thankful that while you thought them, you did not do them.

Instead, watch the train, or the tree, or the shrinking mountainside go by, smile and laugh to yourself, “L’appel du vide…”


What Are You Worth?

What Are You Worth?

What are you worth?

It’s not a thought that often crosses the forefront of our mind, but I’d wager that for many, an arbitrary value exists somewhere in the recesses of thought.

This topic was brought about by a conversation I had with some close friends, where I proposed them the following scenario with a single question;


“Suppose you are diagnosed with a chronic illness. And unfortunately, the doctor informs you that this illness will bring about your imminent demise. In fact, you will die, tomorrow.

However, the doctor informs you that while there is no cure, there is a treatment, in the form of a single pill. Now what this pill does, is keep you effectively staving off the effects of the disease, for one day.

There are many of these pills, and they are readily available to you. The pill cannot be stacked, but it will work continuously.

i.e. You cannot take six pills and live for six more days, but for every pill you take, you get to live for one more day, specifically the following. So you must take this pill every morning, to continue living for the rest of that day.

Now for the question; at what cost, do you STOP paying for the pill?”

*Perhaps answer the question for yourself, before reading any further.


I found this such an interesting question to pose to my close friends, particularly because of the first response I got, when I had asked a clearly startled colleague

Although I am not afraid of death, and in fact, I struggle to identify when you can even call someone truly dead (a topic for another day), I still would always answer – “I would pay anything for the pill.”

I assumed this was an obvious answer, that everyone has the same zest and desire for life, and that my colleague would respond in kind. But instead she replied, “Nothing. I would not pay anything for that pill.”

I was shocked. This completely bewildered me. My colleague doesn’t come across as an unhappy person, and yet I must confess, this was my immediate reaction, although I did not vocalise it. But then immediately, she followed it up with, “I wouldn’t want to leave anyone behind, with a burden of paying for that medicine.”

In a roller-coaster of emotion, I now felt incredibly selfish. I had not even considered the people I would leave behind. In my mind, I thought I would do anything to continue paying for that pill, in the sense of I would accept every inch of the responsibility. But then on further examination of my conscience, I think even if I did leave a burden upon the living… I don’t know. I think my answer still might be “I would do anything for that pill.”

While I cannot know for certain, and it is indeed all a thought experiment, I cannot think of a time when I would condemn myself, to my final day on Earth, voluntarily.

And yet, I then decided to propose a different scenario upon myself alone, based on the famous trolley question;



“Suppose I am working in a laboratory, and there is an accident with a spilled contaminant. This contaminant bubbles and breathes gas into the lab. This chemical is lethal when inhaled.

You and your lab partner, the only people in the room, rush to the two hazmat suits in the corner. But unfortunately as you get there, you discover one suit has been ripped, and is rendered useless.

The person who does not wear the suit, will not die a painful death. But they will die over the next minute. There is no cure as of yet, and they will not be revived.

Your partner has abstained from making the decision, and will readily accept yours.

Do you take the suit for yourself, or do you give it to your partner?”

*Again, perhaps answer the question for yourself, before reading any further.


Now with this question, my answer immediately would be, “I would give the suit to my partner.”

But again upon closer and initial inspection, it seems that there is a bit of an oxymoron between these two answers on my part. It doesn’t rightly make sense for me to fight so unyielding for my life, and yet on a different breath, give it up so readily.

Now perhaps I am perfectly willing to sacrifice my life for another’s. And I’m sure most people would like to believe this also. Hopefully we will be fortunate enough never be put in that situation, and have to even find out.

But here is where I am torn. I believe you should work hard to leave some part of you on this universe. That you should leave it in some kind of better state than when you found it.

And the idea of granting someone a life, by sacrificing mine helps me fulfil that. But just giving up on my life, doesn’t necessarily fulfil it for me. I think that’s why I fight so hard for the pill. With the pill, I can still try. I can still try with every second of my life to make the universe better in some way. But what if in doing that, I actually make it worse for those I leave behind?

What I’m also concerned with, is I think I would fear the idea of my last day, and my last thoughts, not being good ones. The idea of going home, putting on some TV, calling up far away family members to tell them the news, and gathering with closer family to be with me, and then just passing away – I don’t think it makes the cut for me. I could not have, an ordinary day be my last, without knowing if I truly made the world a better place with my time spend on it. But with the chemical spill thought, I can at least die a hero. Regardless of what I’ve done, some of it may be redeemed, and my successor can continue to do good in this world, because I gave them that chance.

Ultimately; I don’t know.

I don’t believe for the time being I have an answer to these questions both. I think it will take many more conversations and much more time thinking about this before I could propose an answer. Maybe by the time I come to the conclusion, my thoughts on the whole thing might have changed. This, I really do not know.

But with my thought and opinions as they stand today fully out there, let me ask you; What are you worth?







Shorts: Adelante

Shorts: Adelante

It does not matter how far you go, and certainly not how fast.

Whether you run, walk or crawl; go forward. “Adelante.”

Sometimes you’ll move on flat ground, and other times it will be considerably more mountainous. The destination is always changing, so don’t worry about reaching the pinnacle. It is a false peak. And that isn’t something to be worried about, in fact it’s magnificent. You will always strive for bigger and better.

And when you are on that journey, don’t worry about looking for a path, or necessarily even a guide, for those paths often travelled may not have the best view, and the ground below may be worn. Also, while you may take the same path as someone else for whatever reason, there is no telling what kind of shoes that person wore, how far along the path they started, or if they were carried there by someone else.

Do not compare, comparison is the enemy of joy. Instead keep a goal in sight, and off-road your way there. Learn to enjoy the bumps in the road, rather than wallow in anticipation of them.

If you find that you’ve got yourself turned around; either because you’ve been blinded by fog, or you’ve had your eyes closed for so long, don’t worry about it. You can turn right around, realign yourself to your goals, and march. Maybe you tripped. Maybe you failed. Don’t worry. Realign. March.

Sometimes obstacles will get in your way. Not only that, but they will push you back and with great evil intent and fervour. You may be kidnapped for a bit, to another place. Perhaps convinced to head in a direction, you wish you had avoided. You will be pulled and prodded, bruised, and tired. You will wear, and tear, and find yourself short of breath. Beautiful trees around you may be replaced with the winter worn. Colours may conspire to grey themselves, and your destination may look bleak.

Life may not be kind. It may be unfair. And when it beats you down, it sees its advantage and it beats you down even more.

But when you lay on hand and knee, after you’ve been beaten by the day.

Simply whisper to yourself; “Adelante.”

Do You Think We’ll Ever Meet Them?

Do You Think We’ll Ever Meet Them?

As you look up at the stars, in the dark of the night, you notice how many there are, and although they seem to go on indefinitely; you begin to count.

And after a while of counting, you will at some point, begin to wonder.

The observable universe is unimaginably gargantuan. The actual universe, is even larger still. Although, as sight fails us, we know only of a larger universe’s existence by the effects that outwith our sight is having upon objects, celestial or otherwise, that we CAN see. i.e. Perhaps a massive object outside of our range of sight, is so large that it’s gravitational pull is affecting objects we can see. But since we can’t physically see an un-observable universe,  for now, for the sake of the following analogy, let’s consider what we CAN see.

It’s estimated, by different sources and reputable scientists, that the number of stars in our observable universe amounts to anywhere between 1 to 100 million… for every grain of sand on Earth.

Think about that.

For just one beach, your favourite beach you’ve ever been to, imagine counting the individual grains, and multiplying it even by the lowest of that scale. You’ll no doubt theoretically devise a number so large you could not write it down in tiny numbers of chalk on any road in the world. Then add every other beach, and every other grain of sand on Earth; and be amazed more, still.

Then consider what stars, in a sense, represent. They represent a section; a little order in the large chaos. For where there are stars, there are clusters of planets. And as such, we can count a little more conveniently. But we’re not looking for convenience now, in fact we are tackling the big.

In our Solar System (The Sol System) there are 8 planets (Sorry, Pluto.) If we assume then, that every other star COULD have that many, of course they could have more and they could have less, but let’s just suppose they could – you could theoretically multiple your number again by anywhere up to 8. By the time you’ve done this, you have ANOTHER inconceivable number. A number that is so large, it actually has nothing we can compare it to.

We cannot compare it to grain, to salt, to blades of grass. To letters written, or perhaps even to thoughts, thought. We are now, astronomical.

But then… consider this. That inconceivable number… is a snapshot, of now. Stars, like we, go through stages of their life. And same as they are born, they age, and die. When they are born, their sheer scale grants them a gravitational field. All mass has gravity, it can just be so small that its force is negligible. However a stars gravitational pull is exquisite, and its existence will force them to inherit planets along the way. These too age and die. When a star dies, it guarantees the death of all other planets which orbit it.

This is because when a star dies, it enters a supernova state. This implodes the star, and at its most dense point, it bursts out again and explodes its heated guts containing gases all across the the solar system, and out into the universe. This crucible of gases, of planets, of minerals, and all of the elements that found and support life, is continually exploding and spreading itself all over the universe, every day, as time goes on.

So this crazy number, that when we last left it was a rough estimate of all the planets in our observable universe, is now only a snapshot. Think of all the planets that have been, since the beginning of time. The number is now not only incomparable, but it’s actually grown meaningless, for we can’t understand it whatsoever.

In keeping with the unimaginable, let’s expand our thoughts to the non-observable universe which could be infinite… and then expand our supposition to more than one universe. In fact… an infinite number of universes. Why would there be more than one universe? – Because the universe does not make anything in sets of one. There can be no action, without reaction.

What is the point of all this? What’s the point in even understanding or dreaming of these numbers. Of how the universe works. The point of all this; is consciousness.

There was no reason for the universe to give birth to life. It could have continued existing just fine without it. And yet, it did. Not only that, but even life itself could have stayed as small as bacteria. But it didn’t. It grew. Which means atoms, which had until that point all been working independently, now decided to work together to form something larger. And why might that be?

I would wager, that the universe was compelled to observe itself. And the way to do that, is consciousness. Perhaps my last statement a paragraph ago was incorrect, perhaps the universe couldn’t have went on fine without us, because without anything to observe it, it wasn’t able to exist anyway.

The universe couldn’t even have written this article, had it not made that decision at that time. Now let’s not even delve into the different question of how it could even make a decision or have a compulsion; let’s leave that for another time.

The most important thing we can take from this, is that the universe desires consciousness. A chaos that can in turn, decide to do things it should not or normally could not, and a chaos that can conceive of things which do not exist, and therefore expand the theoretical universe indefinitely. Perhaps life was just the universe’s attempt to continue growing.

This consciousness as we know it on Earth, consists of the elements of life. These are Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Hydrogen. Which are four of the five most common elements in the universe. Which are found in every star in the universe.

If the universe never makes anything in ones, why would it make consciousness in one?

It’s just a case of it could be ANYWHERE in this universe… and at ANYTIME in its existence. Each consciousness has its own perspective. Its own take on the universe, and itself. Its own thoughts, desires, opinions, loves, hates, fears, and dreams. And if these conscious beings can dream, I bet they too, sit down, stare at the stars, and count.

So with that being said, do you think we’ll ever meet them?



Dear Dr Hawking,

Dear Dr Hawking,

If I could borrow your time for a moment.

As someone who is fascinated by the stars, by the infinite cosmos, all that way from the splendour complexity of galaxies and quasars, to the mischievous cheating of quantum mechanics, you inspired me. To learn. To grow. And to pursue a path of knowledge, everyday. I find myself fortunate to have many people in history whom inspire me, but I am undoubtedly touched by your universality.

There are names whom we hold dear in science, with the list exhaustive and debated.

Albert Einstein. Isaac Newton. Dmitri Mendeleev. Mary Curie. James Watson. Francis Crick. Maurice Wilkins. Rosalind Franklin. Alexander Fleming. Anders Celsius. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. Jane Goodall.

However, one certainly lacking in divisiveness, was you You were iconic. You are iconic. You were wonderful.

An irrefutable example, of triumph by the mind, when the body fails you. A scientist, a physicist, a teacher, a student, an unstoppable force. You showed the world how a bit of stubbornness to the cause that is the universe, and positivity in the face of literal certain death, could go so far.

You fathered theories on how our universe concerns to conduct itself, and helped us understand our brief history of time.

There are certain people whom I am saddened for the world, when the opportunity for fresh adventures with them is revoked. And you were certainly one.

At the same time, I am humbled by the fact that you shared your knowledge, so that even in your passing, we are left enlightened. And we will persist. We will continue our pursuits.

In this life, work to leave some part of you left, when you pass. And you undeniably did this. The whole world over will remember your name, and as they share unique stories, and opinions with you in mind, we will be reminded that you never will truly leave us.

Thank you for your time, Dr Hawking.

See you among the stars.



Where Your Head Should Lay

Where Your Head Should Lay

In my room there is a double bed, in the place I’ve made my stay;

And on one pillow sits a book, where your head should lay.

As the light dims down low, in I tuck my feet;

And I stare at the empty space, where our noses would meet.

I think about you now and then, when you get in my head;

And at those times, I lie and wish, you were that book instead.