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Ultimate Meaning - Why Is There Something and Not Nothing?

By William Alkhoury January 9th, 2024

Ultimate Meaning - Why Is There Something and Not Nothing?

Why does everything which exists exist? Why does the universe go through all the bother? Is there a reason to exist? How can we really explain why we are all here or that the universe even exists at all? (188, Brandon) If we think about the existence of things and our place in the universe, we might be absolutely amazed to discover ourselves on this “ball of rock” rotating around a spherical fire. It is a very odd situation. The more I look at things, I cannot get rid of the feeling that existence is really quite weird and bizarre (Watts). It's hard to explain some practical application of a billion galaxies.

Why should anything exist? Isn't it more probable that there should have been nothing rather than something? A universe requires effort, it requires energy, and it would have been so much easier for there to have been nothing at all. What is going on? Why do we even ask these questions? We want to make sense of what we see around us. Life is odd. It’s very mysterious. And as you explore questions like these, you begin to feel that your existence is exceedingly odd. Odd because you are here and so easily might not have been (125, Watts). Schopenhauer maintains the clear knowledge that this world’s nonexistence is just as possible as its existence. (134, Blackburn). And yet "Wonder is a state of mind in which... nothing is taken for granted...Each thing is a surprise, being is unbelievable. We are amazed at seeing anything at all; amazed not only at particular values and things but at the unexpectedness of being as such, at the fact that there is being at all" (Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1907-1972).

From the point of view of logotherapy, Ultimate meaning is found through participation in a universal order of being (178, Graber). Some call it God, Allah, the Tao, the Laws of Physics, I like to call it the Ultimate Whyness, the ultimate question of why something and not nothing? And what does it mean that there is something and not nothing? Or as Leo Tolstoy asked: why are we here? And what for? The question "Why?" is the fulcrum on which the question of meaning hinges (1, Ford). It is the ultimate value, importance, purpose, and reason for existence. Logotherapy proposes that the ultimate meaning and truth can never be comprehended in its entirety, only pursued to the best of one's ability (178, Graber). We may get a taste or a glimpse of the ultimate meaning or truth through peak experiences, revelations, and epiphanies, but we will never comprehend it fully.

I'm always struck with the sheer improbability of all this existing, this vast expanse of being (246, Morris). How could all this come to exist? There could have been nothing, for all we know when we begin to reflect on the mystery of being. Eternal nothingness. A universal void. But there is light. And there is matter. But why? (247, Morris) I've always been open to life being must stranger than we typically give it credit for (129, Morris). The universe is stranger than we think and it is stranger than we can think. We need the humility to recognize that our understanding of the world still goes no farther than scratching at its surface (129, Morris).

The Big Bang Theory describes an explosion from what scientists call a singularity or singularity point into the universe as we know it. But where that singularity itself came from and where the laws came from with which it exploded outward is a set of questions science cannot answer (251, Morris). We question things as deeply as we can in order to understand as deeply as possible. The ultimate goal is a firmer grip on who we are and what our place in the world really is (22, Morris). Those seeking to supply their lives with meaning usually envision a role or function in something larger than themselves. But a role in some larger enterprise cannot confer significance unless that enterprise is itself significant. And its significance must come back to what we can understand or it will not even appear to give us what we are seeking (159, Sanders).

The cosmologies of today--big bangs and black holes, antimatter and curved, ever-expanding space going nowhere--leave us in dread and senseless incomprehensibility. Random events, nothing truly necessary. The ultimate dread occurs when we confront the nothingness. In the face of nothing, no thing and no being can help us. What is humanity ultimately afraid of? Nothing! A lonely dread that nothing that is at the core of being (361, Yalom). Science's cosmologies say nothing about the soul, and so they say nothing to the soul, about its reason for existence, how it comes to be and where it might be going, and what its tasks could be. What's the purpose of anything? (47, Hillman) What is life all about? Why is there something and not nothing?

The quick answer is: You can't have nothing, you always have something! Humanity is condemned to be free. Existence is condemned to exist! In other words, how much choice did the Cosmos or God really have? Philosopher Chris Langan attempts to resolve the ex nihilo or "something from nothing" paradox. The paradox arises when "nothing" is taken to exclude not just "something" but the potential for "something." Because exclusion of potential is a constraint, "nothing" in this sense requires its own explanation, and cannot serve as an ontological groundstate. But when "nothing" is viewed as unconstrained potential then reality arises inevitably from it.

"Existence exists, this is where we must begin." (Nathaniel Branden). The First Cause of all things, the Unmoved, Prime Mover, Causa Sui (i.e. Self-Caused, Self-Generated). Or reality exists due to the influence of something outside of it, an external creator (Langan). Otherwise we fall into the trap of circularity and the infinite regress. If God created the universe then who created God? And then who or what God created that God? Ad infinitum. We have only three choices: Circularity, Infinite Regress, or Brute Fact. Yet, if we reduce the mystery of life to mere brute fact, then we are simply pretending the mystery does not exist and paint the universe as a meaningless accident. Eventually we must put an end to this circularity and that is where we find the Prime Mover. Reality creates itself. It is self-generating. Reality is constantly self-creating and it does not stop. The essential nature of the universe is to exist (252, Morris). God or the universe exists necessarily.

The Cosmos or "God" has chosen that something is better than nothing. Because the infinite freely becoming something is a greater value than the infinite remaining nothing. In the opinion of the Cosmos, any beingness or existence, ANY-thing, is better than NO-thing, any effect is better than no effect, any universe is better than no universe, any particle is better than no particle, but the particle of admiration is best of all (Hubbard). In the beginning and forever is the decision and the decision is TO BE (Hubbard).

But we can take this one step further. From the perspective of Chris Langan, Ultimate Reality at the highest level is actually an "Identity." Something that permeates and distributes over everything and exists everywhere and no other definition makes sense. The question is no longer a why, but a who? In other words, Ultimate Meaning is an Ultimate Identity with the Ultimate Reality.

Closing Quotes
  • "Wonder is the basis of worship." - Thomas Carlyle
  • "Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?" - Stephen Hawking
  • "The mystical is not how the world is, but that it is." - Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • "Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy." - Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • "What you are looking for is where you are looking from." - Francis of Assisi