Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Is the World As It's Meant To Be?

Is the world as it's "meant" to be or is it chaos?

New-Age philosophy says that events happen as they are “supposed” to, and that everything happens for a “reason”, and that adversity in life has the purpose of teaching us something. You can read any of the hundreds of new-age books out there and they will tell you pretty much the same thing: “You must learn to love yourself and when you do the universe will bring good things to you.”... “There is a reason you were put on earth at this place and time.”... “Visualize good things and set your intentions and it shall come to be.”... “There are no coincidences, just synchronicity.” blah-de-blah-de-blah.

I don’t completely buy this stuff nor do I completely reject it. What it means to me is to be open minded and to be able to pay attention to what we may not normally see. Synchronicity is not a magic trick from the universe but it describes events that surprise us or jog the brain. Inspiration can come from synchronicity if we are open-minded enough to see it. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in the concerns of daily life that we don’t see those interesting and surprising things that pass before our eyes. Creative people take those little surprises and build on them to make art. Much creativity comes from putting unlikely things together in a new and unexpected way. But I don’t think the universe “intentionally” sends these things to us. They just happen. And the open-minded people can take the stuff thrown at them in life and make new connections. One feels much less powerless in a world of chaos when one can create something out of the stuff and share it.

When a dear friend of mine died, my new-age friend said he’s fulfilled his purpose in life and has moved to a higher level. This was “meant” to be in the cosmic scheme of things. Well, baloney. It was chaos, really. A very small electrical anomaly in his heart caused a catastrophe. Perhaps a micro-volt of difference would have saved him and he would still be here. It is hard for people to accept the idea that a tiny event could cause big tragedies. And yet we still must have some belief that something coherent holds everything together.

The world flows around us and we can’t stop it. It’s like being in a flowing river. Each moment is gone in the blink of an eye. All kinds of shit both good and bad flow down and bump into us. In some ways I must “go with the flow” and realize it’s impossible to stop some of the shit from flowing by. But I must also have the strength and the motivation to swim up and grab the good shit when it drifts by. Some days the river is calm and clear. Other days there’s shit everywhere. There is a balance in life between allowing the river to flow and having the strength to go against the flow in order to grab the good stuff. The river can’t be stopped but it’s extremely wide and there are many paths that can be taken along it.

Each moment is gone as soon as it passes, yet each moment exists just like every place along a river exists, even though it is behind or in front of you. Each view along the way is unique. I can look back and see it with a different perspective. I see the directions that I did not take and wonder why. But it is neither reasonable nor constructive to dwell on the paths not taken. I should look ahead and pay attention to the present place and where I’m going. If I look back for too long I will slam into a bunch of rocks.

And what of the future ? If all moments exist, is the future already there ? Tomorrow at this time will certainly arrive and things in the world will be in a certain configuration at that moment. The moment exists but is it fixed ? Is it fated to be the way it was “meant” to be ? If all molecules behave in a predictable manner according to physics, and everyone’s brain is made of those molecules, then we have no choice about what will be happening at that moment or any other moment. But if molecules behave according to chance and chaos, we don’t really have any choice either, do we ?

Our consciousness gives us the illusion that we have free will. I have the choice between continuing to write this stream of whatever, or I could stop and make some toast. But do I have a choice ? My stomach is dictating that I should eat something. But my brain can decide whether to eat now or later. The moment of my eating toast exists but hasn’t arrived yet.

This is, of course, a theological question. If all moments are already laid out in time, then praying to a deity is quite useless. But then again, if all moments are already laid out in time, then who did it ?

Contemplating our own consciousness and time makes one realize that there must be something greater than ourselves because the universe is so incomprehensible.

Time for toast.