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Friday, December 02, 2005

In the Beginning Nothing Exploded

It's a curious fact of the human species that we demand answers even when the evidence seems to say: Don't bother. Our species has such faith in the idea of a higher purpose or power that throughout history every culture has looked up to the sun and stars and believed they saw some reason behind their mysterious paths through the heavens. Ancient cultures, and some modern ones, knew beyond doubt why they existed and could articulate it in their stories, but we are not so lucky. The universe unfolds regardless of our existence.

Our 21st century creation story (not a myth, mind you), our Big Bang, with its eternally expanding and cooling universe completely cuts us out of the deal. In the overall cosmic scheme of things, it appears that our existence is purposeless.

And yet, here we are with our deep need to see purpose in everything. We resist imagining that we're nothing more than animals like the squirrels eating at the feeder in the backyard, and so we continue to probe the mysteries, searching for meaning and reason.

Billions of years from now our sun will expand, consuming our planet, and then die, leaving no trace that we were here with all our scientists and philosophers, artists and writers and, okay, bloggers. If their works and wisdom freeze out of existence along with all artifact and memory of our planet's life, human and otherwise, one comes to a disturbing question: What was the point?

Granted, these are things that are not scheduled to occur for billions of years, and even one billion years is beyond the capability of most of us to truly comprehend, but when the entire universe becomes nothing more than an invisible wasteland of frozen rock and gas clouds, it's hard to accept that anything will have mattered. Without some measure of immortality whether it be our children, our deeds, or our works, how can we convince ourselves that our lives are worth the atoms and molecules with which we are born?

I suppose that what prevents us from giving in to a purely short-term outlook is the fact that our creation story, which as with any good creation story, hints towards a destruction story, effectively pushes our collective demise into the recesses of a future so distant that we cannot perceive it as real.

We have plenty of time to continue that timeless debate between Huck and Jim about whether the stars were "made or just happened," and I can't help but wonder if that debate - that journey - is somehow the point.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The daily equivalent of that universal faith in purpose that marks our species, is the saying "everything happens for a reason." Jung said it slightly differently as: "there are no accidents."
I hear the first saying almost every day, and I always want to ask some polite version of "How can you possibly know?" But I always hold my tongue, because these people are so sincere and so certain. It seems very much something they need to believe. ml

8:13 AM  
Blogger James said...

You're right. You can't possible know in any objective proveable way. Still, I am sometimes envious of the certainty.

10:21 AM  

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