Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it.
The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be.
Being alive is the meaning.
It would be so easy to stay with this theme for a very long time, perhaps to the end of one’s mortal days.
Anyway, my topic has taken sufficient shape for me to conclude with this article and then leave these ideas with you, or just out there in the universe. The ‘shape’ being that whether the facts about the way we treat Planet Earth depress you, or whether taking a mystic, spiritual view is more your scene, it’s up to you. Let’s recap.
The first article was to show that there are very strong and valid reasons to take an incredibly dim view of where it’s all heading. In fact, those that stay with Learning from Dogs over the weeks, you hardy lot!, will know that the premise that we, as in mankind, are well and truly in the midst of a massive transition, unlike anything ever experienced before, is an idea that crops up here every so often. This piece on the 22nd is just an example, and there are many more articles resonating around this theme on the Blog.
Then the second article was to show that a simple change of perspective can make all the difference to how we see the world. (Oh, and such a big thank-you to Sue Dreamwalker for that beautiful poem from her.)
OK, to the point of this article!
The BBC have been showing the most beautiful episodes in recent weeks from a massive production hosted by Professor Brian Cox- The Wonders of the Universe. Here’s the BBC trailer.
Did you pick up on that key sentence? “Ultimately, we are part of the universe.”
Here’s a recent piece from the British Guardian newspaper, I think written by Brian Cox, the presenter of the series.
The universe is amazing. You are amazing. I am amazing. For we are all one. Everything we are, everything that’s ever been and everything that will ever be was all forged in the same moment of creation 13.7bn years ago from an unimaginably hot and dense volume of matter less than the size of an atom. And that is amazing. [Understatement! Ed.] What happened before then in the Planck epoch is a matter of conjecture; we lack a theory of quantum gravity, though some believe the universe was formed from a collision of two pieces of space and time floating forever in an infinite space, but I feel I’m losing you at this point, which isn’t so amazing.
Read it in full here, but it concludes, almost poetically, as,
Time feels human, but we are only part of Cosmic Time and we can only ever measure its passing. As I stand in front of the great glacier that towers over Lake Argentino, time seems to almost stand still, yet as I explain the effects of entropy in the Namibian desert as sandcastles crumble around me, you can see that the transition from order to chaos can happen almost in the blink of an eye. One day, perhaps in 6bn years, our universe will stop expanding, the sun will cool and die, as all stars must, and everything will collapse in on itself, back into a black hole singularity. I leave you with this last thought: that we, too, will only really die when the universe dies, for everything within it is intrinsically the same.
Brian Cox takes an almost mystical perspective of the size of the universe and the almost unimaginable number of stars and planets it contains.
So, how many stars are out there? From here, I quote,
It’s a great big Universe out there, with a huge numbers of stars. But how many stars are there, exactly? How many stars are there in the Universe? Of course it’s a difficult question to answer, because the Universe is a vast place and our telescopes can’t reach every corner to count the number of stars. But we can make some rough estimates. Almost all the stars in the Universe are collected together into galaxies. They can be small dwarf galaxies, with just 10 million or so stars, or they can be monstrous irregular galaxies with 10 trillion stars or more. Our own Milky Way galaxy seems to contain about 200 billion stars; and we’re actually about average number of stars.
So an average galaxy contains between 1011 and 1012 stars. In other words, galaxies, on average have between 100 billion and 1 trillion numbers of stars.
Now, how many galaxies are there? Astronomers estimate that there are approximately 100 billion to 1 trillion galaxies in the Universe. So if you multiply those two numbers together, you get between 1022 and 1024 stars in the Universe. How many stars? There are between 10 sextillion and 1 septillion stars in the Universe. That’s a large number of stars.
Even if one writes down in longhand the number, 1022 , as in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 it still has no real meaning whatsover. That, of course, does not even get close to estimating how many planets there are out there.
Let’s say, just as a muse, that each sun only had a single planet. Let us also continue this musing and say that only one in a billion planets had life on it. In other words, if we divide 1022 by a billion, we still get the eye-watering result of there being 1013 or, longhand, 10,000,000,000,000 planets with life forms. That’s 10 trillion, by the way!
OK, cut it down some more, and then some more, and even more.
But whichever way you cut it, the conclusion is inescapable, the universe must be teeming with life and much of that life intelligent and wise.
So let me leave you with this thought about the meaning of it all. It’s this.
It is said that the world reflects back what we think about most. As I hope to have shown, we can think our way into extinction, or we can think our way to more mystic and spiritual outcomes. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be.
In the end, if we screw up this planet as place for mankind to prosper and grow, it’s no big deal. There will be many other humankinds out there in the universe who have taken a different route.
Sleep well tonight!