Many people today have everything they need, but yet, are depressed because . . . what’s it all for? In Annie Hall, Woody Allen does a great job of explaining his childhood depression, which if I had to guess, he’s still living through. Here’s the quote:
Boy:Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!
Mother: What is that your business? He stopped doing his homework!
Boy: What’s the point?
Mother: What has the universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!
Doctor: It won’t be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we’ve gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here!
(Watch the clip here.) Now, i can’t say I ever got that depressed about it, but I certainly had considered, as I think many people do: What’s the point? Like most heterodox Jews growing up, I didn’t say I believed in G_d, nor did I say I thought there was no G_d – for a very simple reason . . . neither were provable. Having had many attempts to argue each side with everyone from atheists to Rabbi’s, I don’t think one can prove it or disprove it using logical testing means. (Sefer Iyov [The Book of Job], in the Torah itself is largely about one man’s complaint to G_d, that he does strongly believe in, is unknowable my man. The exchange between Tzofar and Iyov in Chapters 11 – 14 is very much on this point, but that’s for another post.) In fact, we come to Jewish belief through Torah more than we do through the existance of G_d – that is our path to knowing G_d. There’s a saying that “If only my children would forget me and remember my Torah, for by remembering my Torah, they will eventually remember me.” [source needed!].
Now, with my agnostic beliefs I was brought up with, my mother shocked me one day. Here I was, an “evangelical evolutionist” (science was my religion, there was no other) and there lies are multiplying gerbils. You know how you buy two gerbils and the guy at the pet store tells you they’re both males so you won’t get 50 of them? Somehow, one always turns out to be female. Anyway, my mother looks at the newborn gerbil babies and says sometime like, “There’s so much that could go wrong. Looks how amazing this is. It kind of makes you believe in G_d.” Wait, what? Don’t we have all these scientific explanations for everything? I immediately disagreed with her, but still, I was looking at one with a bent tail, and then in the next generation, seeing some of the offspring of that one have bent tails.
Sure, you could have a lot that goes wrong. Neil deGrasse Tyson gives entire lectures on the subject of all that can go wrong and how the universe is trying to kill us. George Carlin once said, “When I first heard of entropy in high school science I was attracted to it immediately. When they told me that in nature all systems are breaking down, I thought what a good thing, what a good thing, perhaps I can make some small contribution in this area myself.” Don’t get me wrong, I find George Carlin hilarious, but is that the purpose? Just aid the system in destruction? (Why do former Catholics like Carlin and Tyson look at the world so negatively, anyway?)
The answer is in the gerbil baby – How is that formed? Why did the universe bang in the first place? Why were atoms larger than hydrogen created? Why solar systems? Why stars? Why planets? Why . . . the conditions for life in the first place? If you’re Woody Allen, you’re depressed about it. If you’re Tyson, you give lectures about it . . . but in one living creature, in one gerbil baby is a universe of departure from the expected, based on the laws of entropy.
Now, we can chalk the gerbil baby up to this or that theory of randomness coming together in some sort of entropy bubble defying the expected. My Genetics Professor, Dr. William Sofer (who remembers me as the only student who ever talked about religion in office hours) once said to me, “I understand the statistics are astronomical for life to happen, but it happened, so I have faith that [randomness creating life] is true.”
Let’s recap. You can say:
1) Look at the 99%+ part of the world where we can’t life and say “The world that is trying to destroy us” as Tyson would say.
2) “Let’s embrace destruction and $%$ it” as Carlin would say. Bring on those cigarettes and alcohol! Eat, drink, and be merry until my heart attack!
3) “I have faith that it happened” as my genetics professor would say.
4) “Wow. Look at this gerbil. So much could go wrong, but here it is – a new life! Look at the beauty and order in creation. Look at G_d’s creation, and how everything is ordered in our universe for life.”
Now, again, I’m not saying you can prove that #4 is correct based on anything I’ve written above. Maybe Carlin had it right, but I’d venture to say that, on average, the person who is steadfast in #4 is happier than Carlin, not just, as we might say, “in the afterlife,” but also in this life. If this is the truth, it sure is a good one. Look at the world in a positive light and see meaning and purpose in it all. Notice the greatness of the creation of even a pesky rodent, and therefore, all the more so, of man.