Thinking More and More Clearly
I seem to be getting a lot of my wisdom from the subway lately. Not sure what that says about me… In any case, I saw a wonderful quote from Stephen Hawking on the D line the other day:
“The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”
There’s so much in there that I find delightful. I love his description of the evolution of scientific thought, over thousands of years, as the dawning understanding that we are not simply at the effect of random, whimsical, un-understandable events, but that there are relationships of cause and effect based on patterns of interaction that we can understand and even predict.
Five thousand years ago, people thought that the sun rose because some god chose to drive his flaming chariot across the sky — and that he might very well decide the next day not to do so. Therefore prayers needed to be said and sacrifices made in order to encourage him to take the chariot out of the divine garage each day. Now we’re reasonably clear about the laws of physics that keep the earth going around the sun and rotating on its axis, and recognize that our actions have virtually no impact on whether or not that event continues to happen. Freeing lots of energy previously devoted to prayers to the sun god for other, more useful pursuits.
And I see that same process – of coming to understand the “underlying order” behind events – being replicated every day in individual human beings. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that growth as an individual is founded in coming to understand the actual impact of your actions on others; developing an accurate sense of what you can and can’t control in your life; and taking steps, based on that understanding, to create the life you want to have.
All of which may or may not be divinely inspired – perhaps my favorite line in the whole quote. This world certainly feels divinely inspired to me; too gorgeously, impeccably constructed not to be. But that’s something for each of us to decide…