Thursday, January 20, 2011

Universal Truth

Co-author: Nicholas Greenleaf

W
hether we, as a species, live or die, fail or flourish, is of no consequence.

The night sky is slowly disappearing. While gases accumulate, trapping heat and trashing the ecosystem which has maintained equilibrium for millennia, the oceans will rise while what land remains will become increasingly inhospitable to our presence upon it. To say that humanity’s ultimate agenda is self-termination allots us too much credit; we simply plunge blindly, heedlessly, onward, and one day we will haplessly hurtle off of a cliff.

Despite the fortune of mankind’s constitution, the apathetic machinery of the cosmos will continue unerringly. The stars will remain scattered across the galaxy like spilled glitter on a child’s art project. Nebulas will condense into new solar systems and gravity will exert its inexorable pull. Even after this planet has wearied of and annihilated us, it will remain tilted on its axis, simply gyrating in space until it is devoured by the supernova of a dying star.

A single sperm achieves insemination, countless others die. A single planet happens to support carbon-based life, countless others do not. Albeit, statistically improbable but statistically inevitable, nonetheless. We look at an apparently empty cosmos, our species seemingly peerless, and see the whims of divinity, of some greater purpose or design, in our being and in our capacity to reflect upon that absurd circumstance. We do not see the countless failures that were necessary to allow for the conditions which created humankind: A flawless process of indifferent and iterative trial-and-error.

We have come to understand this process as evolution. Blindly enamoured with our consciousness, the carefully constructed card castles of genetic traits and conditioned behaviours we deem as the “identity,” we fail to recognize that natural selection does not give a damn about the individual. We feed, fight and fornicate so that certain traits may be passed on; so that, gradually, mankind may be refined, able to adapt, and endure. Our greatest mistake is to believe that, because we have identities, our identities are inherently significant in the grand scheme of the Universe. Even if a god created the cosmos, what could personal responsibility and moral autonomy mean to an entity that causes galaxies to collide while our precious morality cannot even be extended beyond ourselves.

Whether we, as a species, live or die, fail or flourish, is of no consequence. This is both the beauty and the terror of a universe devoid of consciousness. We may take comfort in the knowledge that the apparent tragedies and turbulence of our lives are transient and meaningless. We may find freedom from superstition, from fictitious factions and petty strife. We may find terror and cling to our false idols, Purpose, Destiny, and Necessity like a monkey mistaking a doll of wire and fur for its mother. We see the dark universe yawning, for better or for worse. But in reality, it is neither: good and evil will be extinguished with us, leaving the universe simply to be.

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