will-o’-the-wisp — Article

A short story on the meaning of life, universe, and our place in it- Yeah, all the big things

Praveen Sunkari
14 min readMar 27, 2021


image credit: Pexels

Me and my existence

I threw my phone towards the ceiling fan which was spinning at a full speed above my head, looking at those pictures made me feel sad, angry, and hopeless all at the same time

Within a split second pieces of my 4-year-old phone hit the walls of my tiny bedroom, none of the pieces hit me, I seriously wished they did, just take my mind off these thoughts.

I have been roaming around the hospital for the past two weeks due to regular stomach aches and vomiting, at first, I thought, maybe it’s because of my 5-star rated canteen food from office but then I got a bit tensed well not a bit but a lot when I guessed I may be pregnant but the pee sticks said nothing and the crampings didn’t stop.

This afternoon when I visited my doctor to check in with the reports, she confirmed I wasn’t pregnant, oh you should have seen the look on my face, the face of relief from the agonizing thought that you have to be a mother of this douchebag’s child who dumped you a few weeks ago

After confirming that I wasn’t pregnant doctor was ready to reveal the secret behind my aches.

She looked like a zombie with her dark circles, puffy eyes as if life was sucked out of her. Why isn’t she getting enough sleep? Is she is being harassed by her husband, did she just get a divorce and couldn’t sleep at night cause she has been crying all night about her sweet sweet husband of her whom she met in her first year of college.

All people can’t have a shitty life as mine maybe she’s trying some kinky stuff with her husband to spice up sex life in her forties or maybe just a big maybe she’s working on some secret pill that can make us deal with our insecurities that would be awesome.

A hand waved at me followed by “hello, can you hear me, hello” obviously it was the zombie doctor sitting in front of me calling for my attention

“um ah, yes doctor Pramila” I snapped back

I have this unpleasant habit; I don’t know what to call it but I usually zone out a lot thinking about all kinds of things, drowning myself in the sea of thoughts, as I did just now solving her dark circle crime

“well did you understand what I said” doctor asked

“yeah totally I’m not pregnant right” I replied

“yeah Tanuja but there’s something else” doctor said

“What doctor should I eat more greens or what cause there’s a rumor Tanuja is already doing that” I said with a slender smile

“No Tanuja you have small polyps in your stomach, it’s rare for your age to have this type of cancer but”

“Wha, what cancer, are you sure those are my reports, what are you talking about” I interrupted her

“I checked several times, I’m sorry but the good news is its treatable,” Dr. Pramila replied

hearing this “good news” from the doctor I didn’t know what to say

She kept talking about what we should do next, what polyps are, I talked little and asked me to come in a week with an empty stomach so they can do more tests to diagnose it the best way possible.

It’s absurd that the reason for cancer is just some random cell inside your body deciding nope I’m not gonna die, I’m gonna live and let live and spread through your entire body.

I returned to my apartment around 8ish after sitting in the nearby park for a couple of hours and as the doctor advised me not to surf on internet anything related to my condition, I typed in the term “ polyps in stomach” on google and started reading those articles and stared at those pictures for hours on end.

I tried my best to sleep, I couldn’t every nerve in my brain took me back to what I read and saw on my phone

Is this it, am I going to die, and that too while going bald due to all the chemotherapy, hell why am I even worried about my hair but if I die bald they are going to remember me as that bald and ugly Tanuja

And phew I dismantled my phone, but the thoughts didn’t stop

Well, there are not so many people who are going to remember me in the first place so no worries, besides my parents maybe he will remember me, but seriously I don’t want to lose this hair or even die, not now you cancer I expected you at my 60s not now.

I barely did anything with my 28 years, and what do I want to do in my life anyway, why am I here? Why do I bother so much that I won’t be here long enough to yell at my teenage daughters to not put their twerking videos on social media and die with a stroke in my seventies, maybe? Does anything I do matter? Do I matter?

Time out man you shouldn’t be inside my head for too long it’s devastating for you, I forgot to introduce myself but you already know my name right? Pay some attention it’s Tanuja, you can call me Tanu by the way sweet na okay that’s enough about me let’s talk about you.

Busy as bee

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Did you ever ask?

What the hell are you doing on this earth? And think about your existence, Does your existence mean anything in the grand scheme of things? Maybe you thought about it or didn’t how would I know? but

Even if you do entertain yourselves with these thoughts while sipping beer on the beach, taking a hot shower, sitting there with your date, or listening to your life-sucks Spotify playlist at midnight like me most of the time

You and I (we) let these questions wander around in the back of our minds without giving them much thought and get busy with life, trying to take this week’s Instagram worthy picture, buying a matching mask for our dress, cashing in big-checks, getting that nose job done, texting that guy from the café, buying that big house near the beach and many other important things.

At no point, we stop ourselves and think why am I doing the thing I’m doing, we just keep chasing one high after another unless some doctor tells you you are going to die sooner than your pet and your light red pee reminds you of that every day.

If you aren’t reminded of your mortality in some way ( if you aren’t deprived of the very thing that makes you feel alive it may be love, money, self-respect, or whatever it is for you) you don’t make an effort to stop and think about your existence and actions you just keep running.

No, I’m not saying that you should be peeing red and dying soon to go on a quest for the purpose of your life, but I think I’ve cracked the case for you.

I will tell you the secret, the meaning of your goddamn existence all you have to do is send me a thousand dollars to my PayPal account and write me a mail with the subject “TELL ME THE SECRET” I’m just kidding I didn’t but as you read on you may do, you may find what you are searching for.

But you can still send the money just saying.

Okay, let’s try to answer these significant questions together, but first, we have to stop somewhere else. Pack your bags.

A little bit of history

Source: Giphy

13.8 Billion years ago what happened? the big bang happened, I used to think that big bang is the collision of some giant mysterious things and that the first bench guy from my class likes me but a little shy to talk to me.

Turns out he didn’t even know I exist in class and Big Bang isn’t the explosion of some big things but the beginning of the universe we live in, In my defense the name big bang should be blamed for that.

In the beginning, the universe was so tiny think of the tiniest thing you can think of it was tinier than that ( tinier than the atom),9.5 billion times hotter than the sun, denser than water and it was expanding like crazy.

As the universe expanded in minutes, the temperature started to cool down with it similarly but it took 700000 years to from the first atom from the electrons and neutrons wandering around the universe side by side and then from the atoms the first elements formed hydrogen and helium.

300 Million years later stars were formed from the gassy clouds of hydrogen and helium and stars too started expanding and blowing up themselves like suicide bombers, sometimes they used to blow up while roaming around the universe and bumping on each other, the explosion of stars was a good thing cause they brought in new elements into the universe and form new planets with their remaining’s of dust.

For millions of years on end, new stars kept forming, expanding, blowing up themselves the reaming’s formed new planets and the planets started revolving around the nearest and largest star because of gravitational force. (stars still blow up themselves by the way they are called a supernova)

Give this kind of behavior for millions of years — Many no of galaxies formed and there came this galaxy named milky way and in that milky way galaxy over 500 solar systems formed and out of that there is this one specific solar system in which earth formed just around 4.5 billion years ago(just think about it, our earth is so young).

Earth wasn’t habitable for living when it formed but it got equipped with all the favorable conditions for life 1.4 billion years after its formation and then came in the cyanobacteria first living being on earth which formed inside the oceans and then made its way to rocks

and after almost 3 billion years later around 3.5 million years ago through the process of natural selection humans came into existence in different types as homo Erectus, homo Neanderthals, homo Denisova, and other types but we the homo sapiens joined the party late around 300000 years ago and “conquered” the world with our ability to trust strangers and wiped away our lookalike brothers and sisters.

It’s quite fascinating to think that there were different human species just like any other animal.

Aw aren’t you so sweet

Back to the present

With our space tech, branded clothes, 5G phones, and Big Mac’s we humans tend to think we are special and greater than every other being on this earth.

We like to think; we are the center of this universe, born with some unique purpose, destined to be and do something.

Do you think alike? awww aren’t you so sweet?

I hate to break it to you but you and I (we) are nothing more than a big ball of gas burning through day and night which we call sun or that little pet of yours sitting there next to you, there’s no purpose behind your existence, you are just a bunch of atoms existing together on this big giant rock called earth for a very short amount of time and then poof you will be gone.

Yeah I know, I know it’s hard to take in the fact that we are not that different from the chimpanzee we saw at the zoo last week; it feels so wrong and most people are taught the opposite their whole lives despite their science textbooks and when they realize this they go bonkers and go on a soul searching munching on magical mushrooms or magical books.

Source: Giphy

Do you think these 13.8 billion years of the universe had happened just for us so that we can binge-watch money heist while some big brother who has created all of this, is watching over us 24/7 to keep us safe and make our wishes come true, really?

When we push away or numb down the truth that we are just evolutionary apes lurking around this forest with no actual destination and cling onto other belief which satisfies us, that we are “special” things go crazy

I will tell you what goes out of hand but before knowing that we should know something else, I think you already know that but it doesn’t hurt to read a good thing twice

I know you know

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We all are going to die someday, you know that, right? Well, I may die before you because of these idiot cells which refuse to die in my stomach or because of my craziness but even if you are not aware of your death all the time like me your subconscious does, it always did.

A renowned anthropologist named Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer winning book “denial of death” says

As human animals, we are so afraid at the thought of our death and we try to cope with our mortality by distracting ourselves with doing all sorts of things (which we call life)and the only reason we do anything is to omit the thought of our death and to be remembered long after our death. (like Gandhi, Hitler, Teresa, or Steve Jobs)

Human’s subconsciousness is always aware of its physical mortality and it tries to work on the question of its legacy “What mark am I going to leave before I die? So that I can be remembered for long” round the clock without even knowing it.

Whether by feeding our kids, building apps, writing articles, working on novel ways to cure cancer, or end hunger in Africa we all doing the same thing, these all are our immortal projects which we build so that when our physical self has vanished.

Wow, all of a sudden we humans sound so selfish and scared when he puts all of our actions this way, right? But you are not all selfish, are you? Maybe a little but not everything you do is for yourself, you do most of the things for the greater good of humanity, not just because you want your name to be remembered long enough.

Time is ticking, I have to reveal the secret, so as we are going to discuss our little secret in the next section, let’s sum up everything we gathered on the way so far

We discussed that we are not that much of a special creature; we have no specific purpose that we should achieve on this earth and the last thing we took from our late uncle Becker everything we do is somehow because we want to stay on this earth a little longer in some way if not physical.

I know, I know you’re probably thinking I’m such a cynical bitch, hold your horse’s buddy, yes It sounds nihilistic and makes me all uncomfortable to read this but don’t worry there’s a silver lining for this cloud too, it does I promise, just trust in me.

Brace yourselves, it’s going to be a little exciting from now on

Secrets won’t be secrets anymore

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Ah finally here’s the secret I promised, wait did I promise? I usually don’t cause it gives a false sense of hope and I don’t always stand on my word for a good reason, you shouldn’t trust me as much as you do but I for now you can.

When we subconsciously have this innate desire to do something big to be remembered without even knowing it and on top of that when we view ourselves as some special creature born to fulfill some unique purpose this is when the shit hit’s the fan.

We become egoistic maniacs, who feel entitled to everything and care about our own beliefs and feelings.

We wage wars just because we feel we are superior to the other race.

We try to hide out important facts and not admit that something went terribly wrong, even if it kills millions of people and leads to a pandemic just to save our country’s reputation

We kill our son cause he eloped with another cast girl and now our neighbors will hate and laugh at us and we are ashamed that our blood is being mixed with some other.

You see the problem here, when we believe we are the center of the universe and combine it with the already present innate desire within us to do and be something significant; we lose the sight of seeing our own mistakes we get blindsided by our mountain of ego.

The way to get away from this self-centered madness is easy but not that simple, “just like you won’t get diamonds without” no I will not use this cliché quote just read on


Only when we understand and accept that we are nothing, nothing more or less than anything that exists in the universe only then, we will be free from our ego and let go all the pressure to be and do something big to be remembered.

This universe, just like us, has no inherent meaning, it not designed with some grand purpose and this doesn’t mean we have to be sad and depressed about this, in fact, this where all the fun begins.

Strangely, when you permit yourself to be nothing, then only you can be anything useful to the universe.

You can be and do anything you want without fear of judgment or the desire to prove something to the world.

And we should remember while we live our lives having fun with whatever we enjoy doing, holding on to the beliefs and values we think matter.

Source: Giphy

You live in your own Illusions (values and beliefs and trying to work on our long-term project) we think are valuable and true and so does your nosy neighbor you don’t necessarily have to respect their illusions but we should give value to the human being who is having that illusion and listen to his cry before dissing him on Instagram and throwing into the fire.

Before you go 6 feet underground, have fun and always be a little skeptical about your illusions and try to make this world a better place with better Illusions if you can.

and enjoy the music, you, you son of sa-re-ga-ma-pa. 😀

Note: All of this is my own understanding (ahem… ahem… I mean through the books I read and courses I took and the life I had) and of course you may have a different understanding about all of this or you may want to berate me with your criticism please send all those sweet whisperings to my mail which you will find in the about section.


Another Note: Tanuja is a fictional character, sorry to disappoint you but Tanuja was inspired from the lady who lives her life to the fullest while battling with stage 4 breast cancer and divorce in her forties, her stories are goddamn funny and inspiring she shares her stories on podcast named

Dying for sex (Podcast) — It’s so funny and raw (You should listen)

Sapiens (Book) by Yuval Noah Hari — Read this book to understand humans and their crazy behavior ( give more value to fictional things like money than actual humans) bit better.

Big History (Course) from the University of Macquarie is on Coursera — If you are curious about how it all happened from Big bang to the present date, 13.8 billion years explained by various specialists.

The subtle art of not giving a fuck (Book) by Mark Manson- This book will make you question your old values and pave a way for the new.



Praveen Sunkari

UX Designer, I design Simple and seductive solutions.