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Why?

Photo by Ivan Obolensky

Why do things happen the way they do?

Broadly, there are two prevailing schools of thought:

One point of view is that what we see and live is the result of a trillion billion tiny random actions out of which emerges higher and higher levels of organization, leading to manifestations that we can observe. In other words, life happens from the bottom up. This is what science espouses.

Another way to look at the universe is to see it as a process that is manifesting a purpose that is inherent but not fully evident to those involved. The universe, life, and living are all works in progress, moving in an unknown direction. The concepts of God, spirituality, and the Divine inhabit this region. This is life viewed from the top down.

The consequences of each of these ideas are opposing world views.

The bottom-up approach starts with individual parts. Initially, there is freedom to act. There is randomness. Order comes about through energy locking into bonds that form structures of increasing complexity. The order created is hierarchical and persistent. The result is complex interdependent organization like parasitic and economic relationships or complex processes.

With the top-down approach, the end is what matters, and all things act towards its fulfillment. For instance, a peach tree grows peaches. It will never grow an apple. How could it? All the peach tree has to do is be itself, and everything else will follow. Its purpose is manifest in its living. It need do nothing else. All is perfection.

Which belief, top-down or bottom-up, is the more correct?

One could say that both are not wrong, but neither appears to be all inclusive. The bottom-up results in meaninglessness. The top-down gives purpose but lacks substance.

It has been my experience that when confronted with apparent opposites, it is likely that both are correct depending on the context. This has proved to be true even in science. Mass acts as a particle but also as a wave. In real life, good people aren’t always good and bad people aren’t always bad. When viewed from the beginning, anything can happen. When viewed from the end, only the path taken was possible. We ask: was it free will or destiny?

To me, contemplating these questions is like writing a story. At the beginning is the blank page upon which anything can be written, even the name of God. At the end is the story that was put down. I could have written a different story, but I didn’t. Why not? The only answer I have is wonderfully simple and tantalizingly complex. It is because that was the story I wrote.

I believe there is a purpose to life, but I live in a world whose purpose isn’t obvious.

The question I have is: what kind of story is all this? A thriller? A mystery? A romance? I’m kind of eager to find out but not so willing for it to end, to be sure. Like any good story, nothing is ever resolved until the last page. In truth, we’re all in the middle, and in my opinion, that’s not a bad place to be, all things considered.

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