Sunday, July 14, 2013

As Happy as Kings

Blue Iris

Courtesy James Bernier

Courtesy James Bernier

Ferintosh, Alberta: 

On the window sill are numerous knick knacks; just outside, intensely green vines with huge leaves climb up to the roof; beyond that twin poplars and a yellow wren house; farther away, Little Beaver Lake rippling in the morning light and in the distance, the rolling yellow hills of canola. We're having coffee in the lounge and early risers are eating breakfast in the dining room: fruit, breads, eggs, juice squeezed from fruit, coffee transported from Colombia.

            As Robert Louis Stevenson wrote—albeit as a bit of doggerel for children— “The world is so full of a number of things, I think we should all be as happy as kings.”

            I worried a lot when I was a kid. I worried about my health, which wasn't great; I worried about my parents dying; I worried about the social challenges of school: you name it, I worried about it. So naturally, I came early to that great philosophical question: Why is there something rather than nothing? Only for me, it was more in the form of, “What if there had never been anything?” and the corollary questions, of course: “What if I'd never been born?” and “If God made the universe, who made God?”

            And so, I was naturally drawn to Tim Holt's Why does the World Exist? Holt chronicles the history of thinkers' struggles to get a handle on this question as well as the dismissal of the subject by believers who know a creator beyond any somethings that might exist, thereby taking an easier route to a satisfying answer. I'm only half way through the book today, but far enough in to know that Holt's is a keen mind with fabulous writing skills. I'll review it on Readwit when I'm done.

            I accept that the universe suggests a starting point: if it's expanding outward, it makes logical sense that it originated from a point. The relevant question is: where and what constituted the point and what caused it to explode into matter? The speed of expansion makes the calculation of the time of the“big bang” a simple mathematical exercise.

            In the meantime, I'm awed by the beauty and variety of the things that exist to make a world. Maybe Stevenson's admonition is enough for the day: I think we should all be as happy as kings. We're pretty sure, after all, that we've been blessed with—at least—a short but intense existence in an amazing world. That's got to be immeasurably preferable to nothing.

            At any rate, I'm inclined to think so this morning.

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