October 2021 – “Friendly Universe”

(Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash)

One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Albert Einstein even though there is no record of him actually saying it. “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

There is a nuance here that is easy to miss. The quote calls it a “decision.” The entire premise of the question surrounding the nature of the universe is a decision. We get to decide. More importantly, we get to decide what we believe. All beliefs are decisions. Stop a moment, and let that sink in. All beliefs are decisions. Despite our genetic predispositions, despite our childhood and upbringing, despite our circumstances, experiences, and propensities, WE CHOOSE WHAT WE BELIEVE. Perhaps the most fundamental belief is whether or not God exists. I believe that He does. That is a choice, a decision that I made and continue to make. If something so fundamental to our human existence is a choice/decision, then so is every other belief we hold.

As we explore the nature of the universe, although the quote does not list “indifference”, I think it was implied. The concept is all about defining the relationship between humanity and the rest of the universe. The “universe” is representative of everything beyond the scope of human life and understanding (in addition to the physical universe as we know it). The reason this decision is so important is that it will shape our perspective for everything else in life. 

If the universe is hostile, then life is a battle to survive. Everything must be seen from a predator/prey perspective. It’s kill or be killed, and since we all die eventually, there is no way to “win”. All roads lead to death, destruction, and entropy. So, while you are here, take what you can and survive as long as possible whatever the cost. Honestly, it is a very dark and dangerous philosophy, survival-of-the-fittest taken to the extreme. Not too many people ascribe to this defeatist belief.

More often, people will believe that the universe is indifferent. It was created by chance; life is a happy accident; whether we survive, thrive, or die is irrelevant and insignificant to the dispassionate universe. Under this philosophy, the universe is really just a big machine, following laws of physics and operating without any purpose other than a series of reactions. While at first glance this appears better than the hostile universe, there is really very little difference. Life and humanity are still relegated to insignificance compared to the vastness of the universe. While we can create meaning for life, love, relationships, and our existence, ultimately those are manufactured and serve no purpose other than satisfying our desire for purpose while we are alive. 

However, if the universe is friendly (especially if it was created by a loving God), that is a completely different paradigm. This philosophy provides inherent meaning in our lives. The universe is here for a purpose, and we are too. God, spirit, the universe, whatever you choose to believe, is working FOR us, not against us. That ascribes value to humanity; it creates cause for love, kindness, and gratitude. 

So, my friends, what decision will you make? Will you decide to believe that we live in a friendly or hostile universe?