The universe is indifferent

The universe is vast, and powerful, and scary. And really, I don’t think it cares much, one way or another if human beings live or die. Anyone who has gone camping in the wild or has sailed on the ocean will likely relate to that feeling of facing a force, a source of energy so powerful that it could wipe you out in an instant, if it wanted to – if it cared to. But whether I am here today or tomorrow, the universe will go on. To it, I am nothing. The soft breeze of a summer wind is equal to two bombs going off at a Boston Marathon is equal to a lioness giving birth to a cub is equal to a vulture pecking at a wolf carcass.

The universe accepts all, tolerates all, simply is as it is, whether we like it or not. This reality can either render us motionless and sink us into despair, or we, too, can emulate it: accepting this moment as it is, right now, in all its ugly beauty or its beautiful ugliness.  But feel indifference? I reject that. Let’s not embrace that, ever.

What happened today in Boston was terrible. To the families who lost loved ones, and to those who were injured during the event, I am sorry for your suffering. We don’t know who did it yet, or why. But this terror of not knowing when violence will strike, that’s what will live on in the minds of the ones who were there and to a nation still on edge after September 9/11. It’s the terror of not being in control of your own destiny. It’s a rude reminder that whether we exist or not, the world will keep on turning. That fragility of existence, is hard to shake. And sometimes it’s not pretty.

How does one take an event like today’s and make sense of it? Even if we discover that it was a terrorist act in retaliation for one thing or another, that uncertainty will continue to gnaw. One can never truly know where the next crackpot lurks. Because that’s what terrorism does best; it suffocates your soul until it squeezes all the joy out of your existence. And you become convinced that your neighbour is the crackpot, and you learn to trust no one. But what you lose in the process is your humanity. Without which you are nothing.

In this life, we can commit ourselves to helping each other, to creating space for each other, to healing each other. That’s not what the people behind these explosions chose. Their act smacks of rage, perhaps of (self)-righteous indignation. Their act serves as a reminder for why we must stay ever vigilant of the darkness in our souls. Because it’s within all of us. And if we do not bring it into the light, befriend it, and disarm it, it will damage us.

It becomes more and more urgent that each of us stake our place in this world, claim our voice and speak out against the violence that has too long plagued our species. As the facts roll in about what happened and why, we owe it to ourselves and to our loved ones to remember that what we say and do matters. The examples we set, the lives we live, the beliefs we espouse. It all matters.

And while the universe is indifferent to our pain, our existence, the universe also contains within it creatures capable of love: and we are one of them. We can reach out to one another and seek to build bonds so strong that we feel safe despite the universe’s cold embrace. We can understand that meaning doesn’t arise from some predestined path we’re told to walk on, but from the moments we dare to challenge that path, to embrace our freedoms and our fears, together.

I am afraid but I will no longer remain silent. I am fragile but I will be strong. I am angry but I return my anger to the universe, free of charge. Our world is ours to build, with care, with hate or with indifference. The universe accepts us whichever way we come. I know which path I would rather walk.


9 thoughts on “The universe is indifferent

  1. Aaron Aart+ Design

    I’m glad I don’t live in the same universe as you do. 🙂 I don’t think the universe is cold and indifferent. That logic doesn’t make sense. Every (healthy) living thing is instinctively repelled from suffering, injustice and death. Every living thing is an expression of the universe. Conceptualizing ourselves as living *in* the universe as something separate is a human delusion. We *are* a limb of the universe. The universe must care, because we care. Life is the universe’s idea, not ours. Every major religion in the world teaches that death however is *our* idea and a result of our actions. Not the universe’s. Which on a spiritual level, I believe to be true. Science has proven that matter at an subatomic level responds to human consciousness. Physicists have to do extra double blind studies because what they *think* about the experiment actually changes how matter behaves. A number of year’s ago, I was very debilitated by illness. Was hospitalized frequently and was told that the illness was progressive and not curable. Then one day it vanished – and not just the illness, but every sign that the illness had been there for almost 10 years. All of the scar tissue was gone, everything. If the universe is indifferent, then why would it bother? I’ve found that most people have stories of miracles and mystical experiences, but it is more fashionable to talk about the horrors of the world, which skews our perception even further.

  2. thekeenobserver Post author

    Oh hey, I know you 🙂

    I don’t think acknowledging that the universe is indifferent is the same as saying that we are separate from the universe. In any case, I don’t disagree with you that we are part of the universe. I don’t even disagree that love is part of the universe. But I also don’t think that the universe is a synonym for love.

    When I say the universe is indifferent I mean that the universe doesn’t make value judgements about one organism or event over another. That’s both liberating and terrifying. For every person that the universe spares, there are others who suffer, many unfairly. The universe is life, yes, but it is also suffering. It holds no moral judgements. It has no feelings.

    I’m glad to hear that you’ve recovered from the debilitating disease you mention. But for every one of you are many who, despite their best efforts, will die from a terminal disease. Why does the universe bother? I don’t know, honestly, but I don’t think it’s because it cares.

    In practical terms, living in an indifferent universe means that for whatever time the universe grants us to exist, it’s up to us to make that existence matter. And it’s up to us to decide what we think matters–we get to create our place in the universe. That’s an empowering place to be, even if it is terrifying.

    Not sure what you mean by: “Every major religion in the world teaches that death however is *our* idea and a result of our actions. Not the universe’s.” Seems to me death, too, is part of the universe, since nothing can exist outside of it?

    In terms of the Boston Marathon, I wasn’t attempting to be “fashionable” by calling the universe indifferent. I was reflecting on our fragility facing a world that we can’t, despite our best efforts, control. At least, we can’t control whether we get caught in the crossfire of a random explosion. But we can control the way we live our lives, the values we choose to embrace, the love we show our families and fellow human beings.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment.

  3. Aaron Aart+ Design

    The Buddha, Jesus and others (who I’m less familiar with) all taught that aging, disease, suffering etc are not the natural order of things. Those things are a consequence of cause and effect and we participate in that cycle – we’ve broken away from the order. They also taught that the cycle of death and suffering can be broken and we can eventually reclaim our original, intended state of union (nirvana, heaven or whatever you want to call it). They also taught that the path to that state *must* include compassion, loving-kindness and service to others, which, in an indifferent universe why would it matter? If we were isolated and unimportant lives in an infinite empty universe, then why would it matter whether we acted with compassion or just killed everything in sight? They do teach non-attachment, but not indifference. If physical matter does indeed behave according to our consciousness, then we are co-creators of the universe in a sense. What we focus on becomes reality. There have been studies that have concluded that there is a universal consciousness with measurable effects. We have the freedom to make choices and to shape reality, so what’s sad is the choices we make.

    1. thekeenobserver Post author

      I didn’t say the universe is empty. I said it did not have feelings. It’s not a human (or an animal or a plant), even if humans (or plants or animals) are part of it. The way I see it, the universe is an energy force, an activity that is continually in motion. Humans, as part of that universe, yes, help shape it, but we are, ultimately, at the universe’s mercy, if the universe could feel mercy, which it doesn’t. Why does practicing compassion etc. matter? Because I find meaning in the relationships I build with others (e.g. my partner, my dog, my friends, my family). I don’t need to believe in a god to do good deeds. I do these deeds because I am capable of love and I want to express that love for as long as the universe allows me to exist. But I don’t feel that the universe owes me an existence, or owes me love. The universe is not my friend; but it is my teacher. It’s not that I’m unimportant to the universe, it’s that everything is equally important to it. It does not distinguish between the tiniest ant and the tallest mountain because it places no value on either. It simply is.

      In my view anyway.

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