Scientists are undecided.
Some say the universe is open-ended, that it will expand forever, and that entropy will ultimately win. Others say it is cyclic, that it started, and will end, with a bang.
Definitions vary a little but, basically, entropy means that the universe will eventually run down, like a toy car exhausting its battery. The far distant future of the universe will be like that, the first group says, dark, still and unmoving. All the stars will have burnt out, all the energy will have dissipated and the temperature of everything will be at absolute zero.
For those that say the universe is cyclic, they say that the universe is expanding right now but, due to the continuing effects of gravity, that expansion is slowing. Eventually, this theory says, the combined effect of the matter we can see and the supposed “dark matter” that we cannot will cause that expansion to reverse and that the stars will then begin moving back toward each other. Ultimately, billions of years from now, the universe will collapse into itself and … well, no one knows what happens after that. Maybe everything just disappears, or maybe it just pops back out again in another Big Bang and the whole thing starts over again.
I must confess, I find the first theory incredibly depressing; everything runs down, everything dies, no life, dark, dead.
My theological feelings have always inclined me to the second theory, the cyclic universe. And in that I also find a kindred thought for those who believe in reincarnation. Both theories, the reincarnation of life and the cyclic nature of the universe, share the same life, death and rebirth theme. It seems that on both a personal level and also in the cosmos, if we don’t get it right, we come back and do it again, and again, until we get it right.
But this too nags at me. That is, if the universe truly is infinite and the cycles of Big Bang, expansion, contraction and Big Bang really do go on forever, then it’s possible we never will “get it”. It’s possible that after uncountable eons and cycles of the universe itself, we won’t have learned what we are here to learn.
And that depresses me.
No, depress is too mild. … It causes me extreme despair.
If the universe is to exist, cycle after cycle, while we keep trying but failing to get it right, and the whole thing is just to go on forever, well, I have the same problem with that as I do with the theory of the universe that says everything is just going to run out of gas and freeze. It really bothers me.
The only way out of this dilemna, it seems to me, is to simply remove sentient life from the universe. Once we’re out of the picture, the universe has served its purpose. It is no longer needed and whether it turns black and cold or cycles on and on, it won’t matter because, well, because it’s not needed anymore. The universe might as well just go away — God can, well, turn off the lights. The universe can simply blink out of existence. We’re done with it. It was the “ground” on which we learned the lessons we needed to learn but, yeah, thanks, you can turn it off now.
The fate of the universe is, in this sense, a non-issue. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is whether or not we, each of us, each of the souls that have lived, are living now, and will live in the future, whether they are the same souls repeating over and over or whether we just get one crack at this, what matters is, Will we get it?
So, to move from questioning the fate of the universe, to the fate of humanity, and thence to the fate of this one soul with a keyboard beneath his fingers, I have to tell you I don’t know what “it” is.
But I do know that whatever “it” is, I’m absolutely convinced it has to do with you, and with me, with the driver of the car that just went past my window, with the passengers onboard the airliner that just flew overhead, with a child in China, a kid in Argentina, a teen in Iceland, an angry young man with an assault rifle, two lovers locked in each other’s embrace and oblivious to the world, hurt people, angry people, two individuals married for a lifetime with decades and decades of shared experiences who still argue about what’s happening in the world outside their door, it is about forlorn people, hopeless people, happy people, laughing people, people watching children play, people patiently sitting with someone who is leaving this life — have you ever seen someone with a deep and profound faith who, in their final days, know they will soon be with the Lord they’ve loved for so long? The effect they have on those around them is indescribable but oh so … … ecstacy is the only word that fits.
“It” has to do with how we relate to each other, with the effects we have on each other, with the ways in which our lives not only touch but more so in how we choose to impart something of our life to another life, one soul giving to another.
The universe is the notepad on which we do our lessons. The universe is the forum in which we express our lives, but the fate of the universe has nothing to do with ours.
The “it” that matters is something else. “It” has to do with you and me. Never one, always at least two, sometimes many many more.
As we often do, we had take-out Chinese last night: house special chicken, Kung Pao shrimp and Mu Shu pork with extra crepes. After ordering by phone, I put the discount coupon — they always have a coupon — in my pocket and drove to the restaurant early so I could sit at the bar and have a drink before the order was ready.
It was chilly last night so I ordered hot sake instead of my usual cold beer. Sitting next to me was a man with a round glass of red wine. Sipping our drinks, we had, at most, ten minutes and we did nothing special except, you might say, explore the mutual wonder of our separate paths in life. I’d been here, he’d been there. I did this, he did that. No religeon, no politics, no right or wrong, no good or bad. Just “is”.
And then my order was ready. We shook hands, I paid and left.
“It” was wonderful.
Thank you, Lord.