While sipping my morning coffee, I skimmed news headlines. One item caught my attention on National Public Radio’s web site: Astronomers Present New Information on the Aging Universe. http://www.npr.org/2015/08/10/431343053/astronomers-present-new-research-on-the-aging-universe
The universe is 14 billion years old. It began with what we commonly call the Big Bang. From the Big Bang, matter and energy began an expansion that fills what we know as the universe. Where does the universe go from here? A team of scientists has determined that the universe will continue expanding and in the process use up all the energy available until a time in the future when the universe will simply fade away. In other words, the universe, just like every living being we know, will one day come to an end. All the energy of life will be spent and the universe will fade away. The universe came about in a bang but will fade into silence.
Is this a depressing story? Is it an unhappy ending? What do we make of the knowledge that everything related to life in the universe (energy and matter) will one day come to an end?
As I reflect on this news, this scientific discovery, I find something poetic about the dynamic reality of the universe and life as I experience. In May of this year, I had the opportunity to return to my family’s home in Western Pennsylvania. I spent time visiting two cemeteries: one where my maternal grandparents and relatives have been buried and another when my paternal grandparents and my parents have been laid to rest. As I placed flowers and spent time at each grave of these family members, I recalled wonderful memories of their lives: meals shared, weddings, dances, times working together and ordinary events long past. I recalled the verse of Psalm 103: The wind blows and we are gone and our places never see us again.
While we seek permanence in life, in truth everything is impermanent. It’s not just our own lives and the things we create and shape that are impermanent. Instead, it is a fundamental truth of the universe that everything is impermanent: changing and growing toward a point of passing from existence. While we want to live with the illusion of permanence, perhaps a better way to live is with the recognition that we, like everything else, are passing through the seasons of life.
What I find most striking about the universe and its movement toward death is that the universe came to being with a powerful surge of energy out of a singularity (the Big Bang) and grew and expanded and is using all of its energy to create life — to be the energetic life that is the universe. This is nothing less than a wonder in itself! The universe will continue to spend energy, to give of itself, until it passes from this dynamic life to an inevitable death. But it gives this energetic life in ways that are growing and expansive and which inspire awe and wonder among whatever conscious beings exist.
Do we not fulfill our own lives as individuals, as families, and communities by following the fundamental pattern of the universe — to give our life-force and energy to stir up wonder and awe? Do we not find value in our lives by creating beauty, caring, and wonder around us? Is not the life worth living one that reaches beyond self to something greater? It seems to me that spending our lives for others, for the greater good, for something more than self is a foundational lesson of the universe. In this, it’s something of a cosmic spirituality.
No, I don’t find it sad or depressing that the universe will one day end. Instead, I find it inspiring. I know that my life follows the same pattern not just of plants and trees and the cycles of earthly-nature but that my life follows the pattern that is foundational to the universe. That inspires me to come to a deeper understanding of my life and my place in this wonderful universe that is giving all its energy to create and sustain life …. for billions and billions of years.
© 2015, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.