Sunday, April 11, 2010

The floor under your feet

I think that a lot of people are bothered by the thought that the universe does not blink, does not know or care that we exist. We don't have to zoom our camera out very far at all - sometimes just past our street - to find that our lives have almost no impact on anyone or anything at all.

It may be comforting to think that someone out there does care (and he cares deeply) and it is unsettling to find that this is not the case. It is up to us to find meaning and lend empathy to the world around us. While the universe does not care if a squirrel gets run over by a car, or if a suicide bomber blows up a city market or if an entire nation is wiped out by disease or warfare, we can care. I care if my leg hurts even if the universe is indifferent. If I see a squirrel run over by a car, it haunts me for weeks.

Finding out that humanity is not the focus point of the universe is more than a little disconcerting, but believe me, the new perspective is as liberating as it is frightening. For one thing, it takes the sting and terror out of death. I have never been less concerned about facing my own death than I am now (although I do worry that I might suffer before I die). It also allows us to marvel at the wonders of the universe without constantly deferring to mythology. For a beautiful look at this universe, I recommend Carl Sagan's Cosmos. It is educational and entertaining and speaks to nearly every level of understanding.

I used to be so proud of myself because I thought I knew the answer to The Big Question: What is the Meaning of Life? I would recite back that it was to 'glorify god and enjoy him forever.' Obviously I no longer find any value in that answer, but I also find little value in the question. When you know that life is just a series of chemical reactions and that our lives are dangling from the absolute thinnest thread of coincidences (although 'coincidence' is a concept that only has value in retrospect) then the idea that our lives are important is a little silly. And yet our own lives have meaning to ourselves and from that we can see that everybody values their own lives. And from there we can see that life does have meaning of a kind. I like to think that my meaning in life is to make sure that Lux and Julian are happy, safe and comfortable. Other people can expand that mission to include scientific discovery or reducing suffering. I'm not particularly good at those things and so I stick to what I am capable of. 

I guess that the point of all of this is that if we find ourselves missing the presence of a benevolent deity (even if it was an imaginary presence) we should do what we can to make those attributes a part of our own lives. The god of the Bible cares for every flower and every bird - so should we, because the universe is not going to.


miriamt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
miriamt said...

I wonder…could there be an alternative between no god and the horrific god of religions???

nathaniel wallace said...

There certainly could be but there probably isn't. In my opinion there is simply no evidence for such a being.

Ed said...

Beautiful, well written post.