August 10, 2017

Inconceivable Reality

I’ve always heard people say things like “you’re always right on the other side of happiness,” and, “just pull through, tomorrow’s another day,” and the like, particularly when things seem at their worst. And, those folks that are usually giving you that generic, newspaper-horoscope-quality advice (you know, the kind you can’t really argue with) are usually “right on the other side” of your crappy day. As I write this article, chances are that I’m having a crappy day myself. Don’t get the wrong impression though, I’m not just being a pessimist. The odds are statistically in my favor that today is going to be total crap, at least more so than the odds that it’ll be totally awesome.

As I often dislike doing it, I’m going to have to use the term “providence” once again here, just briefly. If you’re someone who believes in providence, then you likely believe something to the effect of there being a divine machination for the universe, that God has a plan for us all, or that the yin and yang hang in eternal balance of good and evil, and such like. Providential thinking is inspiring, confusing, and dangerous all at once, depending on where you take it in your mind. I’ll come back to the dangerous part in bit, though. If there’s a divine plan for the cosmos, then it’s just that, a divine plan—not one that you or I could ever hope to understand. If you even make a college try at understanding the grand and inconceivable scope of a divine arrangement in the whole cosmos, then you’ll pretty quickly understand that it’s… well, inconceivable. That being said, we might end up in the same spot as a materialist when thinking about what happens in our day, which is like everything else, healthy in moderation but dangerous in excess.

Chances are, it’s not God dealing you a bad hand.
Regardless of any universal plan there may be, it’s ultimately inconceivably huge and complex to the perspective of our little bitty intellects. Hell, most of us can barely remember to buy all the stuff we need at the grocery store in one trip, much less be able to calculate what we’ll have for dinner in ten years. So, regardless of what you believe about providence and the like, in our meager human perspective, tomorrow is just a random day, just like today was a random day. Yesterday you didn’t get the job you wanted, may the last ten jobs you wanted, and today your car broke down and will cost about a thousand bucks more than you’ve had in months. Chances are though, it’s not God dealing you a bad hand, or karma swinging back around to snap you a good one. Thinking like that is what really just amounts to good old unhealthy superstition. The truth is, as far as we’re concerned (that’s the key point—as far as we’re concerned), everything that’s going on right now is totally random, that is, that it’s all part of a plan whose primary causes and ultimate ends are untraceable and inconceivable.

“What about evolution?” you might ask. And, you’d be right to ask that. Some opponents of evolution argue that the odds of life starting all on its own and continuing as successfully as it has are inconceivably remote, as are the chances that we would even have a planet that would be environmentally conducive to supporting it. On the other hand, some advocates of evolution also argue a similar point, i.e., that while the odds are staggeringly against such success, it’s all a numbers game over an inconceivably long amount of time. In other words, roll the dice enough and no matter how “unlucky” you are that day, you’ll get the numbers you need eventually. I would say both of those arguments make strong points. While there is inconceivably abundant evidence that evolution has been taking place for billions of years, the odds of it successfully happening by chance alone on a planet that just so happened to be able to support it by chance alone are… well, again, nearly inconceivable. Without delving into a science and religion talk as I’m prone to do, I’ll leave it at that—life has been evolving for longer than we even know and the chances it could happen totally at random are staggeringly low, though still possible (obviously).

The very fact that a meteor hasn’t wiped us out in the last ten hours is pretty amazing.
My reply to this conundrum is faithful abandon. Since evolution and astronomy and whatnot all make the universe seem pretty amazing to me, the fact that we even lived long enough to learn to read, then even longer to be able to ready this crappy little article, tells us that something is going right on a grand cosmic scale. The very fact that a meteor hasn’t wiped us out in the last ten hours, or that a newly mutated viral agent hasn’t made us all drop dead is pretty amazing, not just in my perspective, but in a purely statistical perspective. Species die off and new ones evolve every day, if not every few moments, all over this planet. And, it keeps on spinning without exploding, colliding with another planet, or any of the other numerous terrible things that could spontaneously happen. Kind of makes your crappy day seem a little insignificant, doesn’t it? Well, I know as well as anyone that when you’re knee deep in said crap, that still doesn’t make things much better—it usually just makes you feel worse for being depressed about “trivial” things.

So, faithful abandon is a sort of thoughtful indifference. Not nihilism though, because that’s just lazy. The faith is simply that if things have gone so swimmingly for the whole of the planet for so long, then chances are that something good is constantly in the works, even if we don’t know exactly what it is (that goes for everyone—even if you believe this or that about the divine plan, the truth is that you don’t know anything for sure). This faith comes in to the mix, not because we count on God giving us good days. That doesn’t hold much water when we look around the world at children who were born in deplorable living conditions and people who are subject to all sorts of uncontrollable maladies and unfortunate events. No, I’m afraid if you got that promotion you wanted and you go around gratefully touting that “God came through for you,” then you’re probably going to look like a total jackass to the other person who might have deserved and wanted it just as much, who apparently God forgot about… not to mention the starving child in an underdeveloped country who can’t even scrape up a bite of food.

Every little thing is both earth-shatteringly important and completely pointless all at the same time.
The faith comes in because there is a plan at all, and the abandon comes in because we can obviously tell that it’s inconceivably bigger than our petty little good and bad days. The fact that our favorite steak house closed down probably doesn’t amount to crap-and-a-half to God, at least as a singular event, while somewhere in the cosmos a star is exploding and giving birth to a thousand more solar systems. Likewise, the fact that we got a bank error in our favor also amounts to about the same crap-value in the grand scheme. I don’t mean all this to say that we’re not a blip on the radar in this grand cosmic plan, but rather to say that we’re all an integral part of this plan, one crucial blip in an ocean of equally crucial blips. Every little thing is both earth-shatteringly important and completely pointless all at the same time. What’s good to us—the things that make our days awesome or terrible—is not necessarily good on a cosmic, or even just a slightly bigger, scale. How many times has something bad happened to you, perhaps completely unprovoked, that later, perhaps even several years later, turned out to result in something good?

It’s not the size, large or small, of this scale that should bring us comfort, but it’s that there is a scale at all that brings me some comfort. It’s all arguable, but then again, pretty much anything is arguable, depending on how you look at it and what your convictions are, so try and keep an open mind. Don’t take comfort that God will give you even a single good day, because every person’s good day is another person’s bad day. For every twenty-dollar bill you unexpectedly find on the sidewalk, some unfortunate person lost their last twenty they needed for groceries that day. Instead, take comfort that your existence has any meaning at all, because in the grand scheme of the cosmos, it shouldn’t have even happened, and it’s kind of inconceivable that it ever did.