Joseph Ratliff Writer, Researcher, Thinker

Category Archives: Life

You’re Not Alone

We’re all human, and someone feels the way you’re feeling right now…

If you’re doubting whether or not you can write a best-seller, you’re not alone, so has every famous author.

If you don’t think anyone will ever read your blog, you’re not alone, most blogs take years to develop.

If you wake up at 2 am because you think you’re going to lose your job tomorrow, don’t worry, most of us have been there.

Just started a business, and worrying about whether or not you’ll make payroll?

You’re not alone, the most successful businesses have been there too.

But this goes way beyond business…

You’re not alone when you get that cancer test back from the doctor, and it’s positive.

You’re not alone if you miss your daughter’s recital, and it was because the car broke down.

You’re not alone in thinking “What the hell is this country coming to?”

You’re not alone in thinking “What the hell is that strange feeling in my body?”and later finding out it was just gas.

You’re not alone in thinking “I want to help, but how can I if I can’t even put food on the table?”

There are tons of situations where you can feel alone, worthless, like you can’t do it anymore etc…

… but I wanted you to know you’re not alone… so hopefully you’ll be able to move along the journey of life and do something about it.

But even if you don’t want to do something about it, you’re not alone.

Why Does the Universe and Everything in it Exist?

A question on Quora, and my feeble human attempt at answering it:

There are many good answers already given here. I suggest you read those, because mine might come across as “poetic.”

How the Universe and everything in it is here, that comes from the Big Bang and the start of the laws of physics etc. (Osku Penttinen has started the explanation there, and provides an excellent starting point in my opinion).

Why the Universe and everything in it exists, that is a very different question with, in my opinion, no definitive answer … but it does have one key to being human.

Notice the difference in the two statements above. “How it’s here” is much different than “Why it exists” in a very specific way … the human being answering the question.

Someone else already gave a good explanation of the anthropic basis for our exploration of this question.

And, science / physics / chemistry / etc. provides the basis for exploring and finding out more and more of the mysteries behind the “How?”

But I personally think when we use statements like “finely tuned for us” we stop exploring the possibilities. When we think this way, we begin to “outsource” our exploration of the possibilities to whatever is doing the “fine tuning.”

I think it’s much more complex than “fine tuned,” and I don’t think that Homo sapiens will ever find a “one stop, one size fits all” concrete answer to the big question.

But we will keep trying, endlessly searching for the most simple way to answer the question “Why something rather than nothing?” etc. It’s part of what being human is about.

And that leads to my short, and very incomplete answer to the “Why?” version of the question…

To do that, I have to start with some of my understanding of the “How?” … and you’ll see why in a minute…

(Please also keep in mind there is a good reason libraries of books were written on these topics, I am going to overuse some heuristics to keep this brief).

I think we emerged (in a way) out of the set of natural evolutionary processes as the organisms these processes produced got more and more complex over billions of years.

And with these complex natural processes in place, we don’t need some “designer” or everything to be “finely tuned” to be here.

“Order out of chaos” (Ilya Prigogine) would start to explain the main idea, and Darwin et. al pretty much nailed it with natural selection etc.

Chemistry plays a part of course, modern synthesis, thermodynamics, etc. all of those ideas play their part in the fuller explanation…

That’s the “How is it here?” part of why we’re here, and I don’t feel I should even try to re-explain what the giants in science have already covered.

I will add that I think “abiogenesis” seems intriguing though.

Now on to the “Why it exists?” and my poetic explanation, along with my starting point for a joining of both the “How?” and “Why?”

(I’m not claiming humans haven’t explored these ideas yet, but as you’ll see, that’s the point).


“Why do I think the Universe and everything within it exists?”

To me, the word exists brings with it the reason this question will never be answered. We keep asking these questions, and have for thousands of years.

Therein lies the point…

Through these gifts of complex processes (the “How?”) we can ask the question “Why?”

This leads to more “How?” questions … then leads to more “Why?” questions…

(Do you see the interconnected – interdependent nature of both the How? and Why? This sort of Yinyang relationship between the two is the key in my mind).

But the fact we can ask these questions doesn’t give us purpose in and of itself. I think that is where we miss the boat … we stop too soon and give some “There has to be a designer behind this!”

NOTE: The “starting point” in my opinion lies in part in a complex relationship between information, abiogenesis, and thermodynamics. We want to ask “What’s before that?” … and I think we should instead ask “What was there in the beginning?” (To me, the “forces” happen in symbiotic harmony with the “start” of the initial moment of what we currently call the “Big Bang”)

These complex processes gave rise to complex organisms (us, and as far as we know on Earth we are the only ones) that can reflect on those complex processes and explore more “Why?” questions … leading to more “How?” questions.

The other “We stop too soon” point is when fellow humans think we have “come close” to figuring it all out because “science!”

Science rocks, the scientific process answers the “How?” and will continue to do so. But our curiosity, our exploration “bug,” our need to explain things … those will keep bringing up more “Why?”

(Or continue to ask the bigger questions like existence, something from nothing etc.).

I think that what we call “meaning” and “purpose” emerges out of our need to answer “Why it exists?” WITH some sort of “How it’s here?”

I think those two questions will always co-exist in a furious battle that keeps us curious, willing to tell stories and explore, also to share ideas.

Of course our semantics will likely fall short of entire description, but this “gap” is the one we will eternally try to fill. That’s the point.

I think we exist because we attached meaning to the word (or symbol for) existence, and it went from there.

And if you’ll notice, my feeble human attempt to briefly answer this question falls short too. That’s the other point, but when you stop and try to think about all of this…

I think not having the answer to questions like this is even better than claiming we have most of the answers, or are even close to solving the eternal puzzle.

Some Brief Mid-Life Lessons

I’m 43 years old, so I thought I would take a moment and share some life-lessons that might help someone out…

Money is a means to an end, and nothing more than that.

Think of your life first, because if you don’t … there’s a good chance you’ll “suddenly” be 65 and wishing that you did.

You have around 75 – 80 trips around the Sun (average) to ponder the absolute awe of existence. Same amount of time to meet cool people and laugh, love, and play.

Meet your obligations, but don’t create unnecessary ones.

Do what you’ll say you will do.

Be on time, even a little bit early to any commitments you make.

Realize that no one is perfect, no matter what image they project.

Realize that because we are all imperfect in different ways, what others think of you doesn’t really matter if those thoughts come from a place where they are trying to impose some form of control your life.

Even if you think you are, you aren’t a “failure.”

In fact, failure and success are cultural stigmas, and for the most part, those stigmas are falsely imposed on you. You are who you are, with all the good “stuff” and the faults.

But do as best you can to try and have a positive impact on other people, especially with those you emotionally hold close to your heart.