Joseph Ratliff Writer, Researcher, Thinker

Tag Archives: Life

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).

Alright…

“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.

Look Up

by Gary Turk (shared here with permission)

Look Up.

I have 422 friends, yet I am lonely.
I speak to all of them everyday, yet none of them really know me.

The problem I have sits in the spaces between,
looking into their eyes, or at a name on a screen.

I took a step back, and opened my eyes,
I looked around, and then realised
that this media we call social, is anything but
when we open our computers, and it’s our doors we shut.

All this technology we have, it’s just an illusion,
of community, companionship, a sense of inclusion
yet when you step away from this device of delusion,
you awaken to see, a world of confusion.

A world where we’re slaves to the technology we mastered,
where our information gets sold by some rich greedy bastard.
A world of self-interest, self-image, self-promotion,
where we share all our best bits, but leave out the emotion.

We are at our most happy with an experience we share,
but is it the same if no one is there.
Be there for you friends, and they’ll be there too,
but no one will be, if a group message will do.

We edit and exaggerate, we crave adulation,
we pretend we don’t notice the social isolation.
We put our words into order, until our lives are glistening,
we don’t even know if anyone is listening.

Being alone isn’t the problem, let me just emphasize,
that if you read a book, paint a picture, or do some exercise,
you are being productive, and present, not reserved or recluse,
you’re being awake and attentive, and putting your time to good use.

So when you’re in public, and you start to feel alone,
put your hands behind your head, and step away from the phone.
You don’t need to stare at your menu, or at your contact list,
just talk to one another, and learn to co-exist.

I can’t stand to hear the silence, of a busy commuter train,
when no one wants to talk through the fear of looking insane.
We’re becoming unsocial, it no longer satisfies
to engage with one another, and look into someone’s eyes.

We’re surrounded by children, who since they were born,
watch us living like robots, and think it’s the norm.
It’s not very likely you will make world’s greatest dad,
if you cant entertain a child without a using an iPad.

When I was a child, I would never be home,
I’d be out with my friends, on our bikes we would roam.
We’d ware holes in our trainers, and graze up our knees;
we’d build our own clubhouse, high up in the trees.

Now the parks are so quiet, it gives me a chill
to see no children outside and the swings hanging still.
There’s no skipping or hopscotch, no church and no steeple,
we’re a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people.

So look up from your phone, shut down that display,
take in your surroundings, and make the most of today.
Just one real connection is all it can take,
to show you the difference that being there can make.

Be there in the moment, when she gives you the look,
that you remember forever, as when love overtook.
The time you first hold her hand, or first kiss her lips,
the time you first disagree, but still love her to bits.

The time you don’t need to tell hundreds, about what you’ve just done,
because you want to share the moment, with just this one.
The time you sell your computer, so you can buy a ring,
for the girl of your dreams, who is now the real thing.

The time you want to start a family, and the moment when,
you first hold your baby girl, and get to fall in love again.
The time she keeps you up at night, and all you want is rest,
and the time you wipe away the tears, as your baby flees the nest.

The time your little girl returns, with a boy for you to hold,
and the day he calls you granddad, and makes you feel real old
The time you take in all you’ve made, just by giving life attention,
and how your glad you didn’t waste it, by looking down at some invention.

The time you hold your wife’s hand, and sit down beside her bed
you tell her that you love her, and lay a kiss upon her head.
She then whispers to you quietly, as her heart gives a final beat,
that she’s lucky she got stopped, by that lost boy in the street.

But none of these times ever happened, you never had any of this,
When you’re too busy looking down, you don’t see the chances you miss.

So look up from your phone, shut down those displays,
we have a finite existence, a set number of days.
Why waste all our time getting caught in the net,
as when the end comes, nothing’s worse than regret.

I am guilty too, of being part of this machine,
this digital world, where we are heard but not seen.
Where we type and don’t talk, where we read as we chat,
where we spend hours together, without making eye contact.

Don’t give in to a life where you follow the hype,
give people your love, don’t give them your like.
Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined
Go out into the world, leave distractions behind.

Look up from your phone, shut down that display,
stop watching this video, live life the real way.

#poetry   #spokenword #lyrics   #lookup