Where Are We Going?
by Guy Dauncey
First Published in Common Ground Magazine, October 2004
Think big; and I mean BIG. Think the biggest question of all, beyond “Is there life in the Canucks?” and “Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?”. Think “Where are we going?”
We’re clearly going somewhere, yet it rarely comes up at dinner parties. When you consider the progress of the Universe since the Big Bang, 13 billion years ago, it does seem there is a kind of direction. Once there were was Nothing, and then Nothing went “BAM!”, and turned into a gazillion neutrinos. Then “gazoom!”, they created hydrogen, and all the atoms. Then “whoomf!”, and they created galaxies, stars, and supernovas. Then great scatterings of dust and meteorites created planetesimals, congealing into planets. Then slowly, at the bottom of the sea, they created life. And life grew from single-celled to multi-celled organisms, and then to a bazillion bacteria; then it grew legs, and crawled onto the land. All the time, it grew more complex. We, its latest strain, have a hundred billion neuron cells per brain. We scratched our neurons, and started using tools. Another few scratches, and we’re using computers and space telescopes, peering out at the origins of it all. Unless you prefer Noah to Darwin, it does seem there’s a kind of direction.
But where? We may have evolutionary space-siblings who understand it all (“©?†??¨¨?´Wvv!”), but we’re still in the dark. (If you’re reading this, and your crop circles are intended to tell us, could you make the message a little more clear?) It’s getting critical, since we’re running on ecological empty. A few more decades like this, and we won’t have time to ask the question any more. Our planet is accelerating into the future with no-one at the helm. It’s a very scary thought. We’ve got national and corporate leaders, all busily pursuing their own agendas, but very few who we can truly call planetary leaders.
The core of the uncertainty may be the uncertainty principle itself, which says that reality is what we observe. If we observe direction, we create direction; if we don’t, there is none. That brings every moment of the future down to a choice. If we can’t agree on a direction, we’ll continue to wander.
The core of the problem may also be that we can’t agree if there is a spiritual reality or not. If there is no spiritual reality, we are confined to material choices in a material world, governed by the laws of entropy, with or without free will. If there is a spiritual reality, we have to decide if spirit and matter are separate and conflicting realms, as most religions propose, or harmonious, in which case the laws of physics and the laws of spirit must integrate, and will one day be a post-mathematics of heaven and the soul. And if they integrate, they have presumably always integrated, even before there was time. This, in turn, means that evolution carries a spiritual dimension, which people like Teilhard de Chardin, Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber have been saying all along.
So what do you think? Where are we going? Here are twelve possible answers which could start a dinner-party discussion. Send your answers to email@example.com, and I’ll share the results in a future column.
1. ___ Nowhere. We’re just material organisms, driven by selfish genes. There is no inherent direction; it’s up to us to make what we want out of life.
2. ___ To Heaven. As soon as the conflict in the Middle East has triggered Armageddon, everyone who has accepted Jesus into their hearts will rise into Heaven in the Rapture. Amen.
3. ___ To Heaven on Earth, United Church style. Everyone will become very kind, and loving.
4. ___ Nowhere. We’re caught on an endless wheel of suffering, with or without reincarnation. Spiritual enlightenment is the only way out.
5. ___ Into Space. Our destiny is out there among the stars. Let us boldly go!
6. ___ To Freedom, and The American Way. Bring em on! God, Democracy, Wal-Mart, and VISA will prevail over all unbelievers.
7. ___ To Scientific Socialism, and the sister/brotherhood of all humanity. Marx, Lenin and Castro were right after all.
8. ___ To Ecological Collapse. We humans are too powerful a predator species. We are out of balance with Nature, and will cause Earth’s ecosystems to collapse into disorder.
9. ___ To Entropy, and the final collapse of material order. The Sun will go supernova, and the Universe will experience a heat death. Meanwhile, it’s up to us to make what we want out of life.
10. ___ To Syntropy. Spirit will continue to evolve as it seeks spiritual, natural, planetary and cosmic harmony.
11. ___ To a super-technological future. All problems will be solved by robots, nanobots, and the crew from Red Dwarf.
12. ___ Nobody knows. And that’s the scariest (or most exciting) thought of all.
Guy Dauncey is the author of Earthfuture: Stories from a Sustainable World (New Society Publishers, 1999), and other titles, and editor of EcoNews. He lives in Victoria. His website is www.earthfuture.com.