I’ll keep this one relatively short. I just want to give physical form to my thoughts, and hopefully in doing so I can dig into a few minds and plant the seed of further thought that will soon blossom into conscious exploration; but perhaps that is too much to hope for.
Ask the average person what evolution means (barring, of course, the severely religious and the uneducated) and his or her answer will likely include something about how life on Earth, through the process of natural selection, began as simple bacteria-like vessels holding nucleic acids and branched out to become every organism that has ever existed, ultimately spawning humanity, which some–not necessarily arrogantly–see as the apex of evolution on our planet.
I say, why does evolution have to be limited to life on earth or any other place in the universe? Could it not be something much greater than that? I don’t think life has to be an accident or something random. What if it is just part of a far grander natural process of the universe. The earliest proto-bacteria evolved from nucleic acids, which in turn evolved from simpler molecules; maybe not by natural selection as we understand it, but something did develop into something else, something more complex. Perhaps our evolution goes back not to the common ancestor we share with all other life on earth, but to the single particle that existed before the Big Bang. Perhaps we, the grass beneath our feet, the moon above us, all the stars in a galaxy so far across the universe we don’t even know it exists, and the weird beings billions of light years away who stare up at the same stars and ponder the meaning of their own existence all share a common ancestor in that one infinitely small, infinitely dense particle that birthed All Being that we see and do not see.
And to look forward…
Carl Sagan once said, “We are the universe contemplating itself.” I cannot think of anything that has ever struck me as so magnificently true as this. We are the universe. The matter that gives us form existed long before us, and the experiences that define us are the universe in entropic motion. I like to believe that we have been evolving since the universe began, and that our evolutionary path will never stop. Even if Earth is snuffed out, I have absolute confidence flames burn–or will burn–throughout our universe. Then what is next? By existing, we already give the universe the power of conscious thought, but unfortunately that thought is disjointed and full of static. Humanity contemplates the universe the way a room full of Kindergarteners ponders who gets the last piece of candy. We as individuals lack both the ability to answer the great questions definitively on our own and to truly combine ourselves to seek answers more effectively.
What could solve this insurmountable barrier between us and universal awareness can only be speculated. Perhaps the next stage of evolution is a sort of hive-mind that combines the cognitive power of everything on earth, eventually joining itself with other similar hive-minds across the universe. Perhaps it is not what we recognize as life at all, but rather a product of life: the internet, or something like it. Imagine the vast connectivity we created as a self-aware being of infinite knowledge and thinking power. Sadly, we can only speculate.
What I believe we can be a little less uncertain about is where this universal evolution is leading. We may be the universe contemplating itself, but imagine a universe that is sure of itself. Imagine a universe with a thought organ that is the accumulation of all intelligence and its knowledge. Imagine a universe that knows everything about itself–every star, every rock, every speck of insignificant stardust and everything that speck will someday become; the future and the past will just be a single moment during which all of these things exist and everything happens.
There are many people in the world who choose to believe some greater purpose defines their existence. This is mine. Maybe it is all random (which I neither accept nor deny) or maybe nature stretches far beyond my comprehension. I wish more than many can understand that the next step will happen soon enough that I can be a conscious part of it. Maybe I’ll succumb to mortality and be left wondering, but at least I wondered.