What meaning does your life have? …
Maybe you’ve chosen the easy answer of the supernatural. Maybe you believe that life has no meaning. Maybe you’ve chosen to ignore or dismiss the question altogether. Those are not the only approaches.
Our lives need meaning to be happy, to be successful, to be valuable, to be inspired to be sustainable and charitable… I want you to consider the existence of satisfying, scientific sources of meaning. However, these answers can take toil and time to find, but may this website be of aid. When we start to understand the grand cosmo-evolutionary process that has brought us to this moment, when we learn to appreciate our lives because of just how stupefying they really are, and when we commence to acquire a sense of belongingness to the beauty of the universe’s story, meaning emerges.
Generally, science is about truth and religion is about meaning. But, we can have a “meaningful truth,” which is what I mean by “Cosmic Meaning.” Both religion and science are striving for the exact same thing: an existential framework to steer the big questions of reality. The only difference is that the existential framework of science is physical while that of religion is sacred. However, religion grasps after the infinite and that is why it intrigues us all, while science reminds us that we are truly finite. Human beings long for the infinite because they are unsatisfied with their finitude. In response to this dissatisfaction, humanity has repeatedly fabricated thousands of forms of imaginary infinite beings and infinite afterlives to satisfy this longing. Instead, I think we should satisfy this longing by striving for the infinitude of the cosmos, which is the infinite in the sciences. Because we are all a part of a potentially infinite universe and infinite space-time, we are all contributing to a real infinity.
Science and religion butt heads when they take on materialist and fundamentalist viewpoints, respectively. Religion cries, “My supernatural meaning (exactly as written by ancient, uneducated people) is true!” (Because it comforts him, because it gives him stability in a world in flux, and because it gives him simple, instant answers in a world without simple, instant answers). Science responds, “The truth is x, y, and z because of a, b, and c. Sorry, there is no grand meaning.” Both are wrong in these popular cases. The science side so because x, y, and z are not “the truth” but the closest we humans can come to truth at this time. And because the fact is, scientists are not equipped to say one word about meaning. They are trained to analyze calculations, measurements, and data- not the fulfillment of human lives. Unfortunately, science, who can’t even say of what the majority of the cosmos is made, does not know enough about the totality of the universe to comment on its overall workings, not to mention its function. Science and religion can exist in perfect harmony if religion lets go of having any authority on truth, and science lets go of having any authority on meaning.
Cosmic Meaning is an ideology that integrates science and spirituality, allowing them to flourish harmoniously. Cosmic Meaning is Albert Einstein’s “Cosmic Religion.” Albert Einstein said, “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It will have to transcend a personal god and avoid dogma and theology. Encompassing both the natural and the spiritual, it will have to be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, considered as a meaningful unity.” While the word religion is typically associated with beliefs of God and afterlife, the word spirituality is not- spirituality is generally a human being’s individual view of meaning, connectedness, and value. When Albert Einstein said “cosmic religion” he meant a cosmic spirituality or cosmic meaning. I chose the word meaning because it is neutral and does not disgust the average scientist or ignite passion in the average religious believer. While Cosmic Meaning is inherently atheistic and strives to reveal the beauty of the nonreligious, it is a spiritual viewpoint that can enhance the beliefs of both the religious and the nonreligious.
One real possibility of Cosmic Meaning that we face is that perhaps intelligence is very rare in the universe and that we humans have a cosmic duty to bring consciousness and intelligence to other parts of the universe. The evidence for this entails the shocking truth that out of millions of species on this planet, somehow we are the only intelligent ones. If intelligence and consciousness are easy to come about once life originates, we shouldn’t be the only intelligent species on the planet. Perhaps the whole universe would go unnoticed and unknown without us, and that gives us a deep sense of cosmic meaning.
Moreover, our generation is the first generation to realize that we are a part of a larger, grander universe. Just 100 years ago, we didn’t know there were other galaxies beyond the Milky Way. We are the first generation to see into the cosmos with the Hubble images and other discoveries of astrophysics. This new understanding of humanity as a part of a wider cosmos must inform our spirituality. And I believe that just knowing we are a part of an intensely beautiful and majestic universe of galaxies, nebulae, stars, and planets that may even be infinite, should give us some deep sense of meaning that traditional religious beliefs could never offer because they weren’t ever aware of our true context in the universe. It is reassuringly meaningful and spiritual to me to know that there is much, much more to existence (and possibly more than we can ever know) than just our one humanity and one earth.
Alas, maybe “what is my meaning?” is not the question to ask. As isolated individuals in a world with much uncertainty, much unknown, and often much suffering, is the real question, “what makes life worth living for?“ ? In terms of that question, maybe a scientist’s simple answer of Cosmic Meaning is not enough.
Nevertheless, in humanity’s great quest for the stars, we’ll go much further if meaning fuels our hearts.