The difference between what the universe is and what we as conscious creatures need it to be, is a very real gap—and it’s really hard to accept.

It’s not equally hard to accept for everyone, but I think the basic outrage of it all registers in everyone at some level. There’s something fundamentally Not Okay about our situation. We live in soft bodies that die if you poke them hard enough—and we live in a very pokey universe, one that neither knows nor cares about us.

Just about everyone feels the abyss opening under their feet once in a while. It happens to me about twice a week—I’m drifting off to sleep, and the deep unfairness of conscious mortality takes a bite out of my denial. I flinch and gasp, and my wife stirs and mumbles, “You’re fine.”

No I’m not, I think. Neither are you.

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Dale McGowan is chief content officer of OnlySky, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies, and founder of Foundation Beyond Belief (now GO Humanity). He holds a...