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Being raised Christian made it easy to understand my inherent worth as a person. I had value because God created me and loved what he made, and I had purpose because I had a role to play in the great controversy between God and Satan.

When I think back on the foundation of my self-worth, I remember a conversation I had in high school with a few of my best friends. We attended a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school, and I don’t remember how we got to this point in a casual conversation, but I do remember this exchange about having a purpose-driven life:

“Could you imagine not believing in God?” I asked.  

“Well first of all, I would kill myself,” my friend Gabe said.

And I agreed.

I remember the confidence that Gabe and I shared in that moment—the conviction in our reason for existence. Gabe and I are still close friends—he even texts me after each newsletter goes out to confirm that he’s read it—but I hadn’t thought about that conversation, and the comfort it brought me, in the years since leaving the church as an adult. A purpose-driven life allowed everything to make sense. Attempting to live by God’s rules often led to guilt and fear, but belief in the Bible was easier than meaninglessness: My suffering had purpose, and I needed purpose to want to live. Life without God was incomprehensible.

It’s the very theme that launched this newsletter: Without a belief in God and the framework that comes with it, how can I determine my worth?

I don’t have an answer for coping with the meaninglessness of life, but Everything Everywhere All at Once does. And the movie is a masterpiece.

Everything Everywhere follows Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a Chinese American laundromat owner struggling through the ennui of a purposeless life. She’s a disappointment to her father, her business is struggling, and she’s pushed away her husband and daughter. Her life is a never-ending cycle of laundry and taxes, and her failed potential is almost too much to bear. And that’s all before she learns about the multiverse: She’s only one Evelyn among an infinite number of other versions of herself. If there’s an infinite number of Evelyns, then any single Evelyn matters a lot less—or not at all.

It’s understandable if you mentally filed Everything Everywhere away as a typical action sci-fi movie—the word multiverse has become so common as comic books have saturated entertainment in recent decades. And in some ways, the movie can be described as straightforward sci-fi fare: There’s an evil force trying to destroy the world, and only one person, Evelyn, can stop it. But under its surface, Everything Everywhere asks just a single question: How do you cope when you learn your own worthlessness?

The journey towards an answer is filled with the absurd, from fight scenes with dildos to talking raccoons. But Everything Everywhere’s silliness is a Trojan horse that hides an earnest message about the meaning of life. Its blending of genres is no small task—imagine The Matrix meets Sense8 meets Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle—but Everything Everywhere achieves it masterfully, and the result is thoughtful, emotional, and funny all at the same time.

Michelle Yeoh in 'Everything Everywhere All at Once"
Photo: A24

Of course, I won’t explain the movie’s answer to existentialism here—you’ll need to watch it yourself for that, and it’s definitely worth seeing in a theater—but I will say that my favorite moment is a conversation between two rocks, and yours probably will be, too. It’s a perfect scene that captures the thoughtful absurdity of Everything Everywhere All at Once, making you laugh, cry, and think all within a few moments.

Two rocks talking about the universe is the perfect distillation of the film’s broader thematic accomplishment. And those rocks made me think about Gabe.

It’s been almost 20 years since we were those two rocks trying to understand the universe in the best way we could. A lot has changed since then—we’re obviously a lot older now, and I lost my faith in God—and I don’t know if I can explain my purpose in life, or how I’ve coped with losing the one we shared. All I know is that I haven’t killed myself, and that he’s going to text me after reading this.

And for that I’m glad.

We need to have that conversation again.


Thanks to everyone who responded to last week’s essay about obscure comic heroes becoming mainstream. According to my inbox, everyone loves Omar, with my favorite email coming from Rick and having the subject line “Omar Was Ahead of His Time!”

“I don’t know if you and Omar were ever DC fans,” Rick said, “but my favorite obscure comics character is DC’s Jason Woodrue, a.k.a. the Floronic Man, the Plant Master, Floro, and even (so help me God!) the Seeder. He will forever be one of my all-time favorites thanks to Alan Moore’s groundbreaking work on Swamp Thing back in the ’80s. Judging from your picture, I doubt that you and Omar were reading comics back then, but I was and remember thinking: If Moore can make the Floronic Man interesting, there is no such thing as a character worthy only of scorn and derision. All any character needs is the right writer to make them as compelling as the so-called A-listers.”

Rick, you and Omar would definitely get along, but I’m too stubborn to acknowledge a character with such a ridiculous name. Nobody cares about Fluoride Man. (You’re welcome.)

In honor of Rick, Omar, and DC, this week’s book giveaway is Far Sector, by Hugo Award–winning author N. K. Jemisin with art by Jamal Campbell. If you love Green Lantern, you’ll love this book, and if you’re new to comics, meeting a brand-new character is a great place to start. Just send me an email telling me something you read or watched that helped you figure out the meaning of life, and I’ll send the book to a random person who hits my inbox. You can reach me at, or find me on Twitter at @JordanMCalhoun. And if you’re in New York, here’s your reminder about my book launch at the Strand on Friday, April 29.

In the meantime, 19 days until my memoir comes out. I hope you preorder.