How to be Human in an indifferent Universe

How damaging we are to each other. How grim the human condition can become, and it does not take war or physical conflict to make it so.

The most important thing any of us can do is to behave decently but how difficult that is when push comes to shove.

Is it when we are threatened that we become vicious? Is it when our kin are threatened? Both, I suspect. How easy it is to get sucked into conflict.  War on a personal level, then elevated to nations.

Looking back over the years, I realize there are many, many occasions where I have been “wrong”. Behaved the wrong way, drawn erroneous conclusions, been less than honest with myself or others. Or rather not less than “honest” but not wise or experienced enough to know when I have been the architect of my own distress.  When problems fell squarely within my own domain and I did not realize it. When I and only I had the power to fix things without blame or recrimination but where I chose, consciously or otherwise, to blame others or the world itself for my plight.

Honesty is not easy. I am still puzzling over life and wondering why, when and how it went wrong.  And I know that it is I who must bear the sole responsibility.

“Wrong” is a silly word to use really.  It has not gone “wrong” if I were being objective. But who can be subjective about their own life? Considered in the light of a world population of nearly 8 billion people, the vast majority of whom live in conditions which Hobbes would recognize only too readily, such a claim is absurd.

Wrong only in the sense that I could have done it better, could have lived better. Still can.  Wrong in the sense that I could have lived a life in which I could have taken more and better direction. But it is never too late.

At heart I believe the problem lies in the fact that we are born into a universe which, if not cruel, is nevertheless indifferent, not only to our individual fate but to that of our species; and to that of every species and to our planet as a whole.

We are born with minds which may, if some are to be believed, be the most complex thing in the known universe but which are also profoundly unfit for purpose.

Unless that purpose is mere “survival”. The pursuance of the objectives of Richard Dawkin’s “selfish gene”.

As a tool to ascertain meaning, purpose the brain is almost useless in its current form. It is a car over-revving in neutral.  A bicycle turned upside down with its wheel spinning – no purchase on the road. Nowhere to go, no traction.

And as to the universe itself, once you realize it has no “up” and no “down”, no “right” and no “left” you can hardly be surprised that any part of its matter “gifted” with consciousness is bound to feel a little lost.

The universe as such has no meaning; let alone the multiverse.

So, what are we to do? We, that tiny part of the universe, those specks of matter which have somehow evolved the awareness to contemplate our surroundings. Our predicament, if you like, is that it is difficult to accept we are accidental. That conscious awareness is an illusion. An illusion in the sense that we “matter”, that we are somehow different from the rest of the metaphorical pebbles on the beach.

For millennia, for ever, we have told ourselves comforting but misleading stories. We are the center of the universe, we were created by a god to sit at the pinnacle and thereafter at his right hand.

We have invented laws and morals.  We have fabricated concepts of “right” and “wrong”.  Without those we could not survive but we must not pretend that they are part of the universe.

We have created our own reality.  Our own creed. And we need it because we have consciousness and must give ourselves a purpose even though the universe has not.

Even though the multiverse has no “up” and no “down” we must pretend that at least it has a “right” and a “wrong” and we must live our lives accordingly.

Not because some supernatural god or alien will punish us if we do not or reward us for good behavior if we do.

But because we want to. Because we have created a small corner of the cosmos where we have decreed that this shall be and that shall not.

Only the most active of us will seek to minister to the poor, to give comfort to the heathen. No one has “sent us to heal the broken-hearted”. No one has asked us to “preach the gospel to the poor”.

And yet like Pascal we should behave as if they had. Not because (like Pascal) we have some sneaking suspicion that there is a mysterious creator. But because, in the plain knowledge that the universe is an uncaring and insentient infinity, we choose to so act.

Because, if we count for anything at all, we should make something where there is nothing.


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