The universe is made up of energy which behaves according to a pattern than can be described by various equations. The universe also contains matter, which is just a packaged form of energy.
Does this energy really exist in the way that we think it exists, or is the energy itself nothing more than data (information)?
It seems to me that there could have been nothing: no matter, no energy, no rules of physics. Why does anything exist at all and why does that which exists behave according to the various rules of physics that have been observed? Why isn't the universe just empty? Or, why doesn't the universe just not exist at all? Or, if it must exist, then why aren't the rules different than that which we observe?
A partial answer is the "we are here" theory. There may be many universes and each may have different rules of physics and be composed of different substances that behave differently. But, since we find ourselves in this particular universe with this particular set of rules of physics, then this is what we observe. This idea can be applied regardless of whether there is just one universe, many universes, or an infinite number of universes. However, it does not answer the question of why anything had to exist at all.
The above is interesting to ponder. But, we seem to be here. So, we might as well think about the energy, the matter and the rules of physics that do operate in our universe, the only universe that we know. Does the existence of a universe prove that their must be a higher being, a God, that created this universe? That is an easy answer, but it doesn't solve any mystery without creating a new mystery. If God created the universe, then how did God come about? Since this proposed solution does nothing to reduce the number of unanswered questions, we will use Occam's Razon (sp?) to avoid adding an element that does nothing to reduce the number of unanswered questions. Without rejecting the possibility of the existence of a God, we will just stick with the mystery of the existence of the universe without starting to worry about the existence of God.
If there is a God and a plan for the universe, then I think that plan is far more encompassing than what is contemplated by the many conflicting beliefs of the various religions around the world. The universe is vast compared to just the earth alone. Even if there is a God, the entire human race might play no significant role in the overall plan. It is possible that we are just the evolutionary result of some accident in some remove corner of the universe and are far from the center of attention of the overall plan of the universe.
Alternatively, there may have been no original plan as to where life would begin and grow. It might have just been known that would the existence of energy, matter and the right set of rules of physics, life would eventually start somewhere in the universe and this just happened to be the place, or one of the places, where it started.
Regardless of whether or not a God exists, we can examine what has happened and is happening on earth, and to some extent, other parts of the universe. I propose that we examine the course of physical history and try to deduce from that, what the purpose of the universe appears to be.
Life came into existence just a few billion years ago on earth. Evolution was very slow at first, but eventually multi-cellular organisms evolved. These organisms filled the oceans and evolved into more and more complex forms of life. Eventually, these organisms spread beyond the water and onto the land, covering much of the earth with various forms of plants and animals. These living organisms have adapted themselves to just about every environment on earth.
Looking for a pattern here, we see that life is in a continuous process of spreading to every part of the earth, evolving along the way to adapt itself to the great diversity and challenges presented by the various climates and terrains of earth.
Humans are at presently at the very top of this evolutionary process. Why do I say this? Because humans are presently the only beings that can provide the major next leap for life, to take life to other planets. We are the only organism on earth that has the intelligence and technology to allow life to expand and evolve beyond the earth. Through our knowledge and capabilities, life finally has the capability to break through the shell of earth and take its first steps out onto the rest of the universe.
Evolution has created a built-in purpose to every organism to try to survive and to reproduce. In higher life forms, this also includes aiding in the survival of offspring until they are old enough to take care of their own survival needs. Each individual life eventually ends because our individual lives eventually fill no role necessary for life to continue to spread and evolve.
What we think of as our mind and our individuality is actually an illusion. We think of ourselves as a specific consciousness that is born, grows up, has many experiences, and eventually dies. But what of us stays the same throughout our entire life cycle? Almost every cell and every bit of matter in our bodies is replaced every few years. Thus, we are not the cells that compose our bodies. Our thoughts are changed by experience which causes our attitudes and the way we interact with life to change as we grow up and grow older.
So what is it that stays constant that we can hold onto and say that is what defines us as an individual different from any other individual. Each of us has a genetic makeup that is pretty unique except in the case of identical twins. But, if I had an identical twin, I don't think I would consider myself still in existence just because my identical twin was still alive after I died. Could it be the patterns in our brains? I guess they stay pretty fixed throughout our lives.
Each of us can review much of our lives and consider our past experiences to be a defining characteristic of our lives. Nobody else has experienced what we have experienced it in exactly the same way. When we think of things that we have done in the past, we still view ourselves as having been the same individual as we were when we experienced those events in the past. In the same way, we look toward what we will be doing in the future and consider that we are still the same person that will be experiencing those future events.
For most people, our consciousness fears death. But, is there really anything to this, other than the built-in desire to survive that evolution has placed into us by necessity? All that is really needed for us to fulfill our role of surviving and reproducing is for us to have the illusion of having a history, a present, and a future.
What if we wanted to create a computer simulation of the entire universe? Let's assume we have infinite computing capability: infinite memory and infinite speed. Let's also assume we have figured out all the physical laws of our universe, what everything is made of and how everything interacts.
We fire up our computer simulation using all the mathetatical equations that describe the content and behavior of our universe. If we want, we can start our simulation at the big bang and just let it play out from there for billions of years.
Eventually, we notice that intelligent beings have evolved in our simulation. Before long, these intelligent beings start to wonder about the purpose of their own existence. Over time, these simulations of intelligent beings become very technologically advanced. They develop electron microscopes and atom smashers. They begin to investigate the nature of their universe: what is it composed of and why does it behave the way it does?
Eventually, they discover something very baffling. The behavior of the smallest particles in their universe (or sometimes waves, as these smallest particles sometimes behave as waves, sometimes as particles, and sometimes as both at once) is sometimes baffling. Their behavior doesn't always conform to that of everyday items. They can sometimes be in two places at once. At other times, they might not be in any particular place at all until you look at them.
The scientists of this simulated universe can come up with a set of mathematical equations and probability projections that perfectly describe the behavior of these tiny particles. But nothing else in their universe behaves this way or would make any sense behaving this way.
When you get down to the very deepest level of their universe, it seems that their universe is made up of nothing but a set of mathematical equations, which it is ...
What is it that our scientists are finding when they explore the very fabric of our own universe?
Despite its claim to self-lessness and the void, Zen is actually a most self-centered religion. The purpose is the achievement of happiness through the elimination of pain. This is a self-centered goal. Though there is a claim that one cannot attain Nirvana until all others have achieved Nirvana, this is just projecting the goal of self onto everyone. It creates a false sense of selflessness by claiming that one can't achieve their own happiness until everyone else has achieved theirs first.
Actually, almost the opposite of Zen is the true path to selflessness. We are born with the desire to strive and achieve. Zen says this is what makes us unhappy and we will not be enlightened until we learn to eliminate these desires. But doing so is a very selfish thing. It might make us happy, but it does nothing in support of the goals of life and the universe in general -- hence, the selfishness of Zen. All life is born in strife with a desire to achieve, from the smallest microbe, to plants, to the most intellectual form of evolution, man himself. It is this instinct to strive, succeed and spread through the world which has placed living organisms in every corner of the earth where it is possible for life to survive. It places trees precariously on steep mountain sides and blades of grass coming up through cracks on busy highways. Life will strive to grow and succeed anywhere that it can. If life did not follow these inborn instructions to strive and succeed, it's current omnipresence on this world would not be evident.
Rather than try to rid ourselves of our desires, we should respect this gift that we are given at conception. Tempered with civility, we should try to shape and fulfill our desires to achieve. We will be fulfilling the plan of life and the universe as we do so. This, more than the philosophy of Zen, brings us closer to a "oneness" and to achieving the plan of the "void". Zen provides some useful tools to help us through our times of difficulty, but we should not follow its plan to suppress our desires to achieve a state of happiness. The evolution of the universe has build desire and strife into our genetics as part of its plan, which is beyond the goals of any single organism. To follow our nature is to fullfill the oneness and the void. To suppress our nature for our own individual happiness is not.