Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In or Out?

Was recently talking about the Higgs boson and what it seemed to indicate about the Big Bang.  I gushed that the only way to think about it was as an act of conscious intention, an act of creation.  My friend responded by asking "so what."  How does that help us live now?  That was a good question.

If the Big Bang was a conscious act of creation, if the universe in which we live was "engineered" to be a home for life and consciousness, what was the meaning of the act and what does it say to us today?

First of all let me say that I do not believe in "God."  After thousands of years of human history, that concept is too loaded with unhelpful freight.  Indeed, I don't "believe" in anything as an act of faith.  Rather I follow Saint Thomas in following reason until it can go no farther.  At that point, the finger is pointing at God.  Or as Plato saw it, we can never describe the Good, we can only perceive the world in its light.

However, quantum physics and relativity present us with a deep understanding of the universe.  We can trace back the expanding cosmos we see now to a moment in time and a place in space - the Big Bang - that in fact created time and space.  We can paint a picture of the elementary particles that fill the universe in the form of matter and energy.  We can understand gravity as a bending of spacetime.  We can explain the entire material world of our day-to-day existence.   That our understanding is incomplete - gravity cannot fit into the Standard Model yet, we cannot so far explain dark matter or dark energy and we have no explanation of consciousness - does not impact on all that modern science has so far allowed us to understand and do.

So we tend largely to allow the question of what it all means and where it comes from to hang in the air.  Just one of life's mysteries, the answer to which is beyond our reach and really not essential.

Nevertheless, for some, unless there is a meaning, a reason, life may seem rather pointless.

Following Aquinas and using Occam's Razor, I've come to believe that the Big Bang was the result of a conscious act, an act we'll never understand the mechanics of on this side of the veil.  How something is created from nothing and where the agent of that creation comes from, that defines the outlines of the essential meaning of "God."  But one can think about the "why's."

Being a conscious being, we can at least hypothesize about why.  We can, for example, wonder about how it would be to be everything and eternal, the one thing that is and neverchanging.  Lonely and bored?  Finally coming to the point of dumping oneself into an act of creation that created a stage for consciousness to inhabit space and time in pieces, to fill each fragment and create many from one?  Think about a universe filled with 100's of billions of planets that support various forms of life.  Uncountable numbers of individual consciousnesses each looking out on Others?  No one lonely anymore and not at all boring.

And this bring me to the answer to my friend.  The whole point of creation is to experience fully the many splendored world we occupy for our allotted time.  Not everyone needs this answer.  Some instinctively inhabit their lives fully.  But some cannot help but see humanity as full of folly and much of what passes for news as pointless, evil or just epiphenomenal.  For us, it is worth realizing that the point of the universe may be that it exists, and so do we, for the shear experience of it.  It is all important, we are all important, our lives and loves are all important, our acts and efforts are all important because that it why the universe was created.  Nothing is epiphenomenal or beside the point because the point is us. 

If this is the case, then it is besides the point not to be fully engaged in all that life presents to us, not to strive to understand and act in the best way we know how.  Our "duty" then is to try to make this ride as enjoyable as we can for everyone.  To seek beauty, to do good and to have fun.  Fun was almost surely lacking before the Big Bang.

The choice is to be all in or to be all out.  To be engaged in everything or take no real interest in anything.  Freud called this choice one between Eros (love) and Thanatos (death).  Choosing the later would be a real waste.  To be or not to be. 

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