More About The Chair

So, in my last post I mentioned that I chose the universe being like a chair, and some people wanted me to go into more detail about it. Well, here you go.

The question which came up in class was, how do we intuitively feel the universe operates, like a chair or like a person? Mechanistic or supernatural? Of course, being that my professor is inclined towards the latter, and so our readings are similarly inclined, the question was not framed exactly that way. It came across as something more like, do we think the universe is random and meaningless, that consciousness is an illusion, or that everything is connected in a beautiful, subtle, and harmonious arrangement? It’s a good thing I was taught early to identify biases.

Phrasing aside, I knew immediately what my choice was. The universe is like a chair. I believe that because all the evidence I’ve been shown suggests that is true. Nothing tells me that there should be more then that. Perhaps it is because I was never raised in any religious background.  I’m not too concerned about why.

However, I disagree that a mechanistic universe is a depressing notion. I suppose one can’t argue that it is in a way cold, unfeeling, pointless. What is there to make it otherwise? But it is also beautiful and mysterious and mind boggling. Who hasn’t, at some point, looked up at a night sky packed with stars and felt like the tiniest little cog in a system beyond our comprehension? Yet we represent something incredible, the holy grail of emergent behavior; a system based on simple rules which has learned how to understand itself. Descarte said “I think, therefore I am.” We seem to think on behalf of the entire universe.

God and other creation stories are needlessly more complicated, and yet they fail to comprehend the true magnificence of it all. I could take a ball of clay and shape it into an animal; the Judeo-Christian creation story is nothing more impressive then that. We can relate to it because it operates on our scale. Really, though, who are we to presume an omnipotent and omniscient being would operate on our scale? How many of us could start a ball of clay rolling so that millions of years from now it could contemplate it’s nature, build grand cities, and reach for the stars?

In turn, this is a cause for excitement, not for disappointment. True, perhaps there is not afterlife. It can only teach us to appreciate this life more. So what if there is no point? We can chose our own destiny, ascribe our own values and find fulfillment in ourselves.

I believe the universe is like a chair, yes, but I will gladly argue that my vision is just as beautiful as anyone’s.


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