I was watching a movie a while back and the hero of the story ended up attending a forum between a Christian theologian and an atheist. Yeah, it was about as fun as it sounds.
The hero by mid-movie was confused as to what to believe regarding… well, regarding most everything. He had gone to college and the wider world had hit him between the eyes but good. The diversity, or rather the chaos, of various beliefs and lifestyles had challenged his prepackage faith.
This was just as well. Faith is only as good as it has been tested, refined, and proven. I hate to say that. Heck, I hate to live that, but I’m afraid it’s true.
As Russ Taff sang, “All that can shake is gonna shake.”
Anyway, seemingly unimpressed with the theologian, the movie’s hero cut through his shyness and stood to ask a question of the atheist:
“What about meaning in the universe?”
The atheist didn’t skip a beat. (The thing about these intellectual types, no matter what they believe, is that they always have a ready answer and many times a smarty answer with a bite.) The atheist said with a smirk, “The universe doesn’t own you a meaning.”
And I thought, “Well, I guess not.”
But then I reflected that such a statement was a crock, an evasion, cowardice.
If humans are products of the universe, then how is it that we’ve come to have this urge to search for something as useless as meaning? Meaning or its search doesn’t help us in the battle of the species, in the survival of the fittest.
But we are part of this universe. The atheist of all people should agree with that. And still as products of the universe we search. In which case, I might retort, the universe does indeed owe us meaning.
But that’s not right either. I have to agree there with the atheist.
The universe has progressed from its big bang through multiple star births and novas until at last there was enough carbon and other elements to make this Earth and the life on it.
And there came to pass that a sentient species arose on the little planet. The species – fools though they were – sought out a concept called ‘meaning.’
At this juncture, I’d like to point out that the atheist betrayed his own philosophy in taking precious time from his finite life to argue anything with anybody. If there is no meaning, why bother talking to anybody at all except to get what you want? Shut up and get on with the only philosophy left to you: hedonism.
Back to our story. We have a species asking for some ‘meaning’ – whatever that is – for their pathetic and short existence. The universe crescendos to bits of carbon goo who have within them an insatiable desire for a wider purpose than procreation and survival.
Now that’s odd.
If the search for meaning is in the universe, then it is as if the universe in completing us was searching for such itself.
A reason for being doesn’t arise spontaneously from within an object; it is inherent already, put there by whoever made it. Its meaning is in its design. Or in our universe’s case, this search for meaning is in its design.
So we find the universe’s itself is searching for meaning. Therefore, we become that search.
We are the instruments in the universe’s search for meaning.