The True Meaning of the Universe
December 18, 2009 by Somebody Else
Okay, I'll admit that the title of this article is a wee bit pretentious. You might be asking yourself: "How does the writer expect to take on such a massive topic in only a few pages of relatively lighthearted editorial writing? I mean, does this writer have a graduate degree in science, philosophy, or theology? If this question has not been adequately answered by thousands upon thousands of pages of the world's best minds, how is it that I might expect to find anything of any value here in this pathetic little piece of writing slapped together by some total slacker who doesn't even include any footnotes or references?"
My response to this thought is that it is a very good question. I claim no special capacities, whether intellectual or spiritual. I'm just an average everyday slob, probably a lot like you, maybe even more like you than you are like yourself. Paradoxically, it is precisely this every-person quality -- which I possess to a superlative degree -- that makes my response to this transcendent matter absolutely definitive and incontrovertible. Please continue reading for your own good.
The first point that I must make absolutely clear is that the entire universe came from the exact same big bang that all the astrophysicists talk about all the time. You probably already knew that, but I'm just putting it out there so that you know that you and I are on the same page. Like Carl Sagan used to say, we've got billions and billions of stars out there, and even more planets, dark matter, quasars, black holes, supernovas, etc. But I'm not going to talk about any of that. What do you think this is, Cosmos?
People like to say that the universe is amazing, and that proves that there is a God that made it. They also usually add that God is a he, that he has a big white beard, which kind of makes him look like Santa Claus' older and much more hardcore and serious brother --think of Michelangelo's image of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Italy and you get the general idea -- that he got Mary pregnant, and that's how we got the baby Jesus, who died on the cross so that God wouldn't have to wipe the floor with your sinful rear end, which amounted to a kind of debt transfer, something bankers and people with overdrawn credit cards might understand well. They know all this because it's in the Bible, which is the word of God because they said so, and if you can't handle that you'll end up in hell.
Such people are nothing more than an irritating distraction, kind of like a mosquito that buzzes in your ear when you are trying to listen to your favorite Beatles album. So, get yourself a metaphysical can of fundamentalist religion repellent and they won't bother you anymore. All of that stuff is complete hogwash and unworthy of one millisecond of serious consideration. These are the same people that vote for politicians that would grind up the entire human race -- minus themselves and their cronies -- and stuff it into trillions of tiny vacuum-packed metal cans if they were only given the chance.
Do you want to know what Jesus is really and truly all about? If so, just listen to the Doobie Brothers' song "Jesus is Just Alright with Me." Now, as far as I'm concerned, the Doobie Brothers' Jesus is indeed just alright with me. That's the kind of Jesus I believe in, a rocking Jesus that knows how to get down with a righteous-sounding guitar. And you just know that kind of Jesus would have a turquoise bandanna and flowing hair and a cascading beard practically all the way down to his knees. I mean, he would put 1980s hair metal bands to shame. It's just too bad that the Doobies didn't put out an MTV video for that song. That would have been the all-time best Jesus music video ever.
Forgive me, dear reader, for I digress. Let's get back to our original point, which is that the universe started as one infinitesimally tiny point billions of years ago, then exploded outward and is still continuing to do so. This is of course all well and good, but in and of itself doesn't answer the bigger question, which is why?
Some people say that God created the universe because he loves us. Okay, I'll admit, that sounds pretty good. It's like your parents, when you were kids, you asked them why they brought you into the world, and they said, oh, we just couldn't wait to see you, we knew that we were going to love you so much.
Then, when you were a teenager and were making them so mad and upset they had to take ulcer medications, you started to wonder if maybe it hadn't been like that after all, maybe there were other much less noble motives involved in bringing you into the world, such as drinking too much one night and forgetting to practice birth control or something to that effect.
So, we have to consider the possibility that maybe God got a bit careless with some goddess up there, had a few too many shots of tequila, and nine months later she lets loose with a big bang. Heck, he might have had other women in his life, and they could have given birth to other universes that we aren't aware of.
I have a hunch that a lot of Hindu theologians out there are nodding their heads in agreement as they read that statement. Those guys are alright, except when they designate other people as members of the untouchable class, or lead violent and bloody popular uprisings against Muslims living in their area.
As for the fundamentalist Jewish, Christian, and Muslim folks out there, yes, I understand that you would probably like to get after me with a bullwhip for that last comment. Fortunately, you don't know where I live.
As for the Buddhists who just read that statement, yes, I completely understand that my words are just like dead leaves blown upon a soft breeze, and why don't we all sit down and drink some herbal tea together and listen to the sound of one hand clapping?
Anyway, I don't believe in any of that stuff about God getting it on with a bunch of goddesses, I was just trying to make a point, but I forgot what it was.
But let's get back to the whole idea of God creating the universe just for our sake because he loves us so much. In all seriousness, the first thing I want to know about that is, what exactly is meant by "us?" The usual response is, the human race, what else? Sounds pretty cut and dry, right?
Not so fast, folks. Keep in mind that lately scientists have been discovering lots of planets outside of our solar system, and not a few that are in that magical Goldilocks zone, which is that specific distance from a given star that's neither too hot nor too cold to support life as we know it. There are undoubtedly lots of planets in those Goldilocks zones that are earth-sized, but the problem we have right now is that our telescopes aren't quite yet sensitive enough to detect them -- at this time we are only detecting planets that are considerably larger than our earth. Billions upon billions of those earth-sized Goldilocks-zone planets are going to have life on them, and an unimaginable amount of that life is either going to be just as intelligent or even more intelligent than we are. Such extraterrestrial intelligent life is just as much a creation of God as we are. Since we must potentially share a common intellectual and spiritual bond with such creatures, and since they must also imagine a universal creative force of some kind -- basically, God, for lack of a more universal term -- then we must in all fairness conclude that God has created the universe because he loves them as well, freaky and bizarre as they must undoubtedly be.
Simply put, maybe God created the universe for the sake of the intelligent and spiritual beings that would come to occupy it. Now, if only the intelligent and spiritual beings living on earth would be allowed to run the affairs of this planet. Maybe it will happen one of these millennia.
But I'm not done with that particular topic yet, because I just thought of something else. Let's just suppose that God doesn't love his supposedly intelligent and spiritual creatures any more than the rest of his creation. Who knows, maybe he has just as much affection for sea urchins as he has for humans. After all, sea urchins never declared holy war on anybody, and they never came up with patriotism that requires you to kill other people and die, and they never burned anyone at the stake for not believing the way they do. If that's the case, maybe he created the universe for the sake of all his creatures, whether they are big or small, intelligent or brainless, Republican or Democrat. After all, why would he create anything that he hates? He must have brought into existence everything in the universe because he loved the idea of everything in the universe. Still, I'm not entirely sure why he created mosquitoes. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that one. I sure hope that God loves us humans more than he loves mosquitoes.
Here's another point. Let's assume that we were really, really, absolutely 100% sure of the real reason why the universe was created. Would that be the same thing as knowing the meaning of the universe? My response is not necessarily. For example, maybe some guy decides that he is going to write a touching love song for his girlfriend, but when he sings it to his friends they all crack up laughing because they think he's being sarcastic and farcical. So, he decides to go along with it, and the next thing you know he's performing the song with a Frank-Zappa-styled sneer.
Maybe that's the same thing that happened with God. Perhaps he thought that the universe was going to be his big serious masterpiece, but as the thing began to take shape, he realized that it was actually more suited to being a big, fat, knee-slapping joke. So, he figured, what the heck, let's make this place into a total funhouse, let's create a planet with huge dinosaurs galumphing around and ripping each other to bloody shreds with huge fangs and claws, that'll be loads of fun to watch from up on high, then let's throw this massive asteroid at them and wipe them out just for the hell of it, maybe toss in for good measure a couple of devastating volcanic eruptions and bone-chilling ice ages, casually create and then offhandedly exterminate billions of different species of plants and animals, and then we'll have men and women walking around that will come up with a Bible and make a lot of fuss about a baby Jesus, and then Dick Cheney will be born and will rule them all with an iron fist. It'll be great.
But seriously, folks -- my personal hunch is that if the universe does indeed have a true meaning, we're never going to able to understand what it is. Maybe we just want to kind of arbitrarily assign the universe a supposedly true meaning to make ourselves feel better, to give ourselves the same kind of satisfaction we feel after we've solved a tricky math problem or put together a jigsaw puzzle with 500 pieces or something to that effect. But there's never going to be any global consensus about this, there's never going to be some guy getting the Nobel Prize because he has scientifically determined what the true meaning of the universe is. Basically, you're on your own to stare up at the cosmos and try to make sense of it, unless you want to just fill your brain up with a bunch of unexamined fundamentalist religious dogma because you'd rather watch Monday night football or the shopping channel than spend any time thinking about anything deep or important.
I don't know about everyone else, but I kind of like a universe whose true meaning will always be a mystery. People that don't like mysteries don't like the unknown. And people that don't like the unknown aren't interested in finding out anything new. And people that don't like finding out anything new listen religiously to Rush Limbaugh and attend huge churches with massive glass ceilings that are led by charismatic and heavily bejeweled preachers that have gold-plated Jacuzzis installed in their multi-million-dollar mansions.
Copyright 2009 by Somebody's Webpage