What is the Cosmos? Who are We?

What is the cosmos? – The cosmos is a vast incomprehensible mystery about which we can say one thing for sure—it doesn’t care about us. It can turn against us in multiple ways at any moment and eventually it will kill us. For almost all of its life we didn’t even exist, and for most of its future we probably won’t either. We are of the cosmos and part of it, but we are not central to its concerns, we did not have to be, we are extraneous.

Who are we? – Our existence was born “red in tooth and claw,” and any of a trillion slight changes and we wouldn’t be here. But we are here, as the product of random mutations and environmental selection. Our hodgepodge of traits include: aggression, territoriality, dominance hierarchies, sexual behaviors, and other traits of the primates and lower animals. We are not fallen angels, we are modified monkeys.

What does this mean? – Only we can raise ourselves up, and we have a lot of raising to do. An honest look at life provides a picture so bleak that we turn away. Addictions, violence, greed, materialism, fantasy, group loyalty, and religious, moral and political fanaticism shield us from reality and destroy the better selves we could be.

We are surrounded by an unimaginably cold, dark and inhospitable cosmos. Here on this pale blue dot beneath the thin blue line of our atmosphere, we exist on a friendly island in the universe’s vastness. Yet we willfully destroy our planet so that we can have bigger cars, houses and shiny things. In the meantime others live in squalor, and a thousand sophistries justify our selfishness. Meanwhile the planet becomes uninhabitable and unending war continues.

All the while the good people sign their petitions, raise their children, pay their taxes, follow the law, volunteer, and try to be better people. For the most part they remain quiet; no one listens to them. Meanwhile Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly pontificate to the masses. The worst of our species, truly horrific people, attract the most attention.

Can we say anything positive about all this? I don’t know. The world looks bleak and I’m not going to become a Scientologist or join the Tea Party. (The tea party is a current political movement in the US.  Its members think it is a grass-roots movement that opposes government tyranny, but its funders are billionaires who want their power unchecked by governmental interference.) We must have hope, but the world tries to rip it away from you everyday. For today, Schopenhauer put the sentiment I feel best:

“If God made the world I could not be that God, for the misery of the world would break my heart.”

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