Reality is a Process for Exploring Meaning
(Note: God/Nature/Reality/the Universe/the Logos/the divine Intelligence/Existence/Matter are all synonyms and I use them interchangeably)
If any number of universes with random laws of nature could exist, then why does our universe, with its very particular set of natural laws, exist?
One argument is that this is random. I reject this view in a previous post Against Randomness.
If reality is not random, but rather the work of some form of divine Intelligence (e.g. the Stoic Logos), then we must ask: why is the universe the way it is?
In other words, why should the laws of nature be such…why should reality be such… that what we see around us is what exists, and not some other existence? Why should happiness exist? Why should pain exist? Why should the laws of nature be such that we can experience angst? Why should the laws of nature be such that we can experience depression, addiction and sadness? Why should reality create the beautiful innocence of children and the horrible depravity of pedophiles?
Wouldn’t it be possible for reality to be like a children’s cartoon, where everyone is always happy? But that clearly isn’t the case. Is God then too weak to make a universe where only happiness exists? Or does God want us to suffer? Or are we too small to understand and see things from the Universe’s perspective? But why would Reality creates beings that can’t see things from the ‘proper’ perspective and so are condemned to confusion and misery? Why not create beings that understand, and so, are at peace? Why should we experience such inner turmoil?
The divine Intelligence is nothing at all like a human mind
Perhaps our first mistake is accidentally anthropomorphizing reality. We like to speak of God as having desires, wanting certain things, not wanting other things, being pleased with certain activity, not being pleased with other activity.
But this assumes either:
1) Nature dislikes certain things, but is powerless to stop them
2) For Nature to ‘dislike’ ‘like’ ‘want’ or ‘avoid’ is similar to what it means for us to dislike, like, want or avoid.
Both of these are wrong. To believe in a power that could create all of the order we see around us, but believe it is somehow limited and unable to create a happy world it really wants, seems silly. It’s possible, but it seems absurd.
And clearly, this mysterious creative force can be nothing at all like us. After all, we are but tiny, temporary things embedded within it. We share similarities perhaps, and perhaps share a common nature by virtue of our descent from the divine, but the universe is a power that transcends all human thought.
But why this universe?
But still the question remains, why would the divine Intelligence create this universe, with all of its happiness and pain, triumphs and catastrophes, misery and joy? Is even asking this question a sign of arrogance, as if Reality should care how we feel?
Emotion, however, seems to be a central feature of reality. It is the most important fact about reality. Without emotion, we would not have the feeling of existing. And without this feeling, nothing would exist at all. An emotionless universe would be as useful as a totally empty universe. If no one is around to notice anything, what is the point?
The universe is a process exploring the landscape of emotion
The most sensible understanding of why the universe is the way it is, is simply that the universe wants it this way. This does not mean necessarily that there is a particular goal that the universe is working towards (why wouldn’t it just jump straight to the end in that case?).
This means that what is occurring all around us is meaningful in and of itself. What is happening this very moment is the goal. The unfolding of the universal Process is itself beautiful. Existence itself is the goal.
Nature creates order and everything that entails (planets, stars, animals, emotions) because it is a creative force that revels in the exploration of the particular. It creates this particular world, with all of its beauty, sorrow, pain and joy, because experiencing all of those emotions is precisely the goal.
Reality is a never-ending process for exploring emotions. Things exist because the emotions that we (and other beings, indeed all of Reality itself) experience are valuable in and of themselves. It is not that certain emotions are more valuable than others. It is that emotion itself is valuable, and to truly experience emotion, the full range of emotions must be present.
There can be no happiness without sadness and no wonder without fear. There can be no awe without triviality and no amazement without boredom. Each experience has its place and its value.
It is the fact that we will truly die and cease to have any individual experience that makes life so infinitely precious. It is the finiteness of our experience that gives each moment infinite value. It is what makes love truly love. Only two free, mortal beings, truly capable of hating each other, can truly love each other.
What you are living through, whatever it is, has value. To simply exist and feel the mysterious self-referential nature of reality is itself the whole point. To us this is confusing, since we must experience pain, which we hate. But pain has its own beauty, pain gives life meaning. Existence is sublime, it is frightening, exhilarating, exhausting, invigorating. It must be all of these things, or it wouldn’t be worth living. Nothing can lack, existence must contain all of emotion in one organic whole.
Freedom is what gives us meaning
If Reality were to create only angels that are forever in a state of bliss, that would have no meaning. Meaning comes from our ability to choose between good and evil, happiness and sadness. Meaning comes from our freedom to do beautiful things and horrible things, to create and to destroy, to live and to kill ourselves. Angels have no freedom to be evil, their lives would be meaningless.
It is the fact that we can suffer that imbues our lives with a special sublime quality. It is the fact that we can feel a sense of dread and awe when we look at the vastness of the night sky that gives our lives value.
Nature wants to experience emotion. We are simply God looking at itself. As we look out, God is looking in. Nature is exploring this landscape of emotions through us.
In order to make those emotions real, we must be frail, mortal and capable of good and evil. We must suffer in order to feel joy. We are nothing more than God itself experiencing the beauty and the trivialities of existence.