We just are. We wake up as reality surrounds us, dispelling the intricate mythology of our dreams. We wander a world that mostly makes sense, solid and predictable in all kinds of little ways, mostly beautiful when we bother to examine it, intricate beyond reason, flowing into futures fully unseen. Because of what we are, we usually take all these marvels for granted. Nevertheless, as curious monkeys we keep asking “why?”
God or gods _ supernatural beings, some conscious _ were the easiest explanation for how all this came to be, and how it is eternally maintained. Prayer is part of our mental evolution, whether as mantra, placebo, or true incantation _ it does seem to work for most. The simplicity of “just so” is blinding. A tree is a tree because it is a tree. Why? It was made that way. Why are our lives as they are? Fate so wills. Having a leading part in some cosmic narrative, having some important place in the universe, having some justification for everything that occurs is essential to our egos. Any link to wider purpose soothes our spirit.
Science offered another option. In the last thousand years, especially the last few centuries, written knowledge and scientific inquiry dominated our logical framework. Knowing cause, we manipulate effect. First, we became masters of the universe. Discouragingly, then, we discovered that everything is infinitely more intricate than it appears. Once it seemed we were eternal homunculi, or a bag of chemicals to be activated by an electric charge, or inanimate dust animated by divine spirit. Now biologists marvel at trillions of cells working together, each doing innumerable tasks in unmeasurable time, just to keep me animate. Chemists stare into complex chemicals formed by atoms which are almost empty space. Physicists compose mathematical sonnets to weird components of such atoms. Yet with all that powerful knowledge, the scientific answer to “why?” remains little more than “because.”
Ask again, “Why are we here?” The easy answer is the gods have their reasons. The scientific answer, more and more, looks like we result from a gambler’s run of cosmic accidents. If not for the precise collision that gave us the moon or unlikely combinations of events that led to a water atmosphere and oxygenation from a chance bacterial creation of photosynthesis _ there would be no life as we know it. Without plate tectonics and snowball Earth _ possibly no vertebrates. Without other extinctions_ perhaps no animals as we know them. Without a lucky asteroid of just the right size, velocity, and vector, dinosaurs would still rule the planet _ and no, they would not be intelligent. Or everything would have gone extinct. Without the inexplicable ice ages mammalian intelligence focusing into humans would never have occurred. Increasingly it appears that we must accept that we are alone in time and space, the tail end of a string of devious improbabilities. And “why?” has become a pretty scary question indeed.
As for humans _ miracles do not apply _ we are way beyond miracles. The glory of senses, the incredible existence of memory, the magnificence of logical trains of thought, the infinite range of imagination _ all are literally incomprehensible. Even those, however, pale when compared to your supernatural consciousness. Each of us unique, each of our moments unique. Our outlook has cycled back towards a person being the height of creation. We are immersed in a sea of awe.
Sure, bad things happen. I often fear that we are, or will have been, those fabled giants of old, heroes of a golden age once upon a time, vanished gods with awesome powers. As in ancient stories, we are flawed by wrath, stupidity, and trivial pursuits. Each of us endures more or less terrible twists of fate, although in overcoming such problems we may become glorious. We admire beauty and are entranced by the multiple facets of life _ but happiness is complicated. Some guys have all the luck, others do not, and life is definitely not fair.
Good or bad, I know that I take too much for granted. I often pay little attention to the fact I can see, hear, taste, feel, rest, do, or think. I worry too much about mistakes in the past and plans for the future and miss the reality of each moment. I am part of a social framework that delivers knowledge and support and enjoyment and _ well, I simply assume that is normal. None of it is normal. As the saying goes, we don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone.
I try to arise each morning overwhelmed by the gift of being me. I try to pull myself back into that state whenever I am becoming too bored or complacent or anxious. Perhaps it is shallow and foolish to do so, a modern Pollyanna Pangloss. I don’t care. I finally realize how little I comprehend, how much I experience, and I rest content.