I’m not a religious person.
I did contemplate religion several times as a child.
There were times when I would consider the world and the rest of existence around it. The process usually involved the thought of what exists beyond the edge of the universe. Surely even an empty void has dimension and would therefore constitute a part of the whole. If beyond the boundry there was no dimension then it would infer the universe also had no dimension. Eventually I would give up thinking about that conundrum. It was far too complex for a young child to process.
It wasn’t until my late teens that I became truly aware that physics, particularly quantum physics, was looking for answers to this and other baffling questions.
The difficulty presented by those thoughts would in turn cause me to consider that perhaps god did exist and that who knew what the universe was really about except Himself. I would continue from this to the knowledge that there are many religions, of which I was aware of several due to the multi cultural nature of my school. I would conclude that not all religions could be true seeing as there could only be one source of creation. So finally I returned to the idea of an absence of any god or gods.
As I grew up I came to appreciate that matter consists of atoms which are themselves formed of a proton/neutron nucleus surrounded by electrons. These atomic elements can be further divided into quantum particles such as leptons, bosons and quarks. I learnt that gravity was linked to matter and that gravity had the power to bend light and even trap light – think of a black hole as a mass rendered invisible because it is so great that even light cannot escape from within its influence. I learnt many things and I eventually came to an awareness of theories surrounding the nature of existence covering strangeness such as multiple universes and the creation of our universe.
Physics has become a source of wonder for me – a feeling I thought I’d lost as I entered my teens and reality began to impose itself. I regret not studying Physics at university, it is one of my true regrets, and one thing that I dream of changing if I ever have the money to return to study.
So in the end physics became both a source of fascination and a source of hopelessness. It drove the final nail into the coffin of religion. I could not picture an existence where the complexities of nature as explained by science could sit alongside the uncertainty and vagueness of religion.
With religion absent I began to concern myself with the nature of life, the purpose of humankind and the meaning of my life.
In cosmic terms there are theories that the universe contracts to a singularity, explodes, expands and contracts again, endlessly. In this case what is the purpose of life if all galaxies are doomed. However, that takes longer than the lifetime of a star, so narrowing to the Sun we know it will eventually expand and engulf the Earth before exploding (although some explode, some collapse, and more). So then, what is the purpose of life on Earth if it will eventually be burnt to a cinder. The argument could be narrowed further to a man made destruction such as nuclear war, disease and global warming.
If the human race is doomed, and eventually everything else too, then what are we doing? Why are we here? Is there a purpose?
To which I can only conclude that there is no grand purpose. We humans, alongside everything else, simply exist. We are a collection of atoms gathered in a very complex formation of which a portion can process information to enable observation, thought and interaction. Two of these collections can interact to produce more collections and so on.
Seeing as I am just a clump of atoms with awareness in a meaningless existence, where does that leave me? What can I do with my life to give it meaning?
My answer is one that I have held for over two decades now. When I reach the end of my life I will have considered my life meaningful if I have in some way contributed to future generations. It doesn’t have to be a massive contribution, such as those made by Einstein or Shakespeare, but something that future generations might find useful. An invention or creation that will be used or enjoyed as long as it is needed or remembered.
I have come to terms with the mundane functionality and inevitability of existence at all scales. To think otherwise is futile.
I also accept that logically my existence has no more purpose than to reproduce, although that in itself is purposeless.
So it is that the meaning I give to my life is mine alone and is not defined externally. It is mainly an emotional response to the unforgiving truth of reality.
Sometimes I struggle with the likelihood that I will not make my contribution.
It is something I feel quite passionate about…