This universe is stranger than any fantasy novel when you think about it long enough. The ludicrous majority of it is inhospitable, formless void at a temperature of 2.7 kelvin, a temperature pretty much impossible to even comprehend. What life there is is made up of the carcasses of suns which means we are all quite literally undead. And yet, we can die. And in death, experience yet another transformation, the exact nature of which is as elusive as the meaning of it all.
The theory of the holographic nature of reality pervades and has recently been re-invigorated by further research that deduces the laws of physics are, strangely, like parameters set by a video-game engine. Scientists are still not able to explain why cells can only copy themselves 46 times and hence we deteriorate. Gravity is still classified, bizarrely, as a theory. Dark Matter only exists to explain why galaxies do not rotate according to gravitational laws (the tail end solar systems trail behind as though with added weight, a phenomenon that should not occur in a weightless vacuum).
Why are there parameters? Surely, if there was once a point of absolute nothing before even time was in existence, how can physical laws have manifested themselves? Did they exist before this point of absolute zero? This seems illogical. Does the beginning of the universe, a kind of act of incarnation, an idea being made flesh just as the Christian story teaches us that God made himself flesh, actually resemble more the beginning of a program? What would it mean if this is a program, a kind of simulation which we will one day wake up from?
Never has the oldest philosophical question Why are we here? been more relevant and yet it is largely disregarded by modern thinkers, replaced by questions of how. The reason for this is partly because the question Why? implies that the universe was not accidental, that it was created, that we were created, and that in fact the video-game simulation is the product of a mind as opposed to fortunate circumstances. I also think it is partly because the idea we are meant to do something is terrifying. What if we have missed our chance? What if we have failed? What if we have monumentally misunderstood our purpose?
What if the simulation will keep running forever until we achieve that goal?
We have become so enamoured of the idea of miraculous accidents, of the strangeness of the universe being due to randomness as opposed to an element of design, that we no longer have the curiosity to know what the answer to the Why? is. But the Why? is important. The Why? burns in us even when we do not acknowledge it. The Why? is how we define our being, our behaviour.
Some people believe we create our own meaning. Others believe it is imparted by divine authority. The former is viewed by some as narcissism; the latter as ignorance. Whatever your thinking, it is important to value the Why?, the meaning, the reason for things. To interrogate the simulation is to be freed from it. To be freed from it is to take on new life. It is something prospective writers reading this would do well to think about: Why is your character doing what they are doing. Not how. Why. Why is your world the way it is? Not how did it come about. Endless explanations are tedious. It is the reason behind the reason that we want to explore.
You do not, of course, have to provide an answer. You are not God (although being a creator of an imaginary world can, at times, feel like a translated echo of it). But exploring the answer is what is key.
It is still what makes us human.
Thanks very much for tuning in! Please if you have thoughts or counter-ideas feel free to leave them in the comments section.
I’d also like to recommend some good reading/researching material for people who are interested in these topics. Two key books for me were:
- The Complete Guide to the Soul – Patrick Harpur (one of the most engaging, well-written, compellingly researched and in depth investigations of the universal human experience of the soul, dreams and afterlife that has ever been written)
- City of the Iron Fish – Simon Ings (a fiction work I grant you but one which explores the nature of reality in such a way that it will change the way you think, and comes close to, strangely, providing answers. A work of genius for the modern era.)
And one other key thing to look up is No Man’s Sky. It’s a video game that has not yet been released (coming June 2016) but you can watch interviews and trailers galore which discuss the game’s content. The game-developers have effectively worked out an algorithm that has shed light on how the universe may have been created: its patterns and numerical forms. Fascinating and brain-melting stuff!