WHY ARE WE HERE?
ANOTHER VIEW OF THE MEANING OF LIFE
by Masse Bloomfield
The September 22, 2006 issue of the Jewish Journal carried the feature article entitled “Why Are We Here?” as well as “Some Pearls of Wisdom from Books Throughout the Ages.” I spent some time thinking about how to expand on the ideas expressed in the article. However, in going over the article, I did not find the word “species” or “productivity.” At least with “species” there is some connection to life’s meaning, but “productivity.”
When I broached the subject of “Why Are We Here?” to my son-in-law, he answered, “Life is eat, grow and reproduce.” Nothing wrong with that, but I thought I should add a fourth feature to life, and that is “death.”
Human life fits nicely into the “grow” part of all life. How humans grow separates us from the rest of living things. Much of the thoughts expressed in the Jewish Journal have to do with the individual’s relationship to God or to man or even to the community. For instance Harold Kushner wrote “God gave us a world that would inevitably break our hearts, and compensated for that by planting in our souls the gift of resilience.”
Human beings grow both physically and mentally. We have limited abilities but we are almost able to master the physical universe and have a good grasp of how the universe operates. We created the atomic bomb confirming Einstein’s theory that matter and energy are convertible into each other.
When Einstein wrote “e=mc2″ (energy is equal to mass times the speed of light), he was describing God. God is on both sides of the equation. God is energy and God is mass. In addition, God created space and time which allow energy and mass to exist. It is energy and mass that comprise the Universe that we know. Energy and mass are everything we can feel, see, think or even hope to know. God is the Universe.
I keep thinking that God is what made the atom and bestowed the atom with its properties and keeps it an atom under normal conditions. I think I have a God who created energy and mass and left it to maintain itself according to His laws. A God that can hardly spend time listening to humans pray or be concerned about human problems. But God supplied us with His material, His physical rules and His biological rules. Humans are indeed God’s creation as is all of the Universe.
And one of God’s biological rules is that biological entities can evolve. Man has evolved into a creature different from all other animals. Man has a cultural evolution which follows the same pattern as biological evolution. Stephen Gould was one of those who proposed that biological entities follow a pattern of punctuated equilibrium. Punctuated equilibrium translated means biological species have long periods of stability interrupted by a short transition to long periods of stability for a species which is somewhat more complex than the previous species.
Man has had three stable cultures or societies. These stable periods are the animal society, the tribal society and the peasant society. Mankind is currently in the midst of an unstable period changing from a stable peasant society through an unstable transitional industrial or information society becoming a stable automated society. Change is the hallmark of any transition and change is the one thing about current humans we can count on. My books “Mankind in Transition” and “The Automated Society” expand this concept.
The entire human species is on a journey to an almost predetermined future. No matter what the current circumstances are, they are going to change. There have been a very few people who have led the change. It is my opinion that the Industrial Revolution, the name we have given to the changes for the last 300 years, began with the invention of the steam engine.
The men and when they invented their contribution are as follows:
- Thomas Newcomen the steam engine 1712
- Textile machines
- John Kay the flying shuttle 1733
- James Hargreaves the spinning jenny 1770
- Samuel Crompton the spinning machine 1779
- Edmund Cartwright the power loom 1785
- Eli Whitney interchangeable parts 1798
- John Froehlich the gasoline powered tractor 1892
- Nikola Telsa the robot 1898
- Henry Ford the assembly line 1912
- William Shockley the transistor 1947
- John Bardeen
- Walter Brattain
- Konrad Zuse the computer 1941
- John Atanasoff
- Clifford Berry
Each one of these men was instrumental in increasing productivity. Increased productivity means one person can do more work in a given amount of time than before. During periods of satiability, productivity stays about the same. It has to increase but only slightly. During transitional periods, productivity seems to increase every year.
The inventors mentioned above have propelled us with almost lightening speed toward total automation. Our generation has seen more cultural evolutionary changes than have ever occurred before. My father for instance, grew up in a peasant society where there was no electricity or running water. He lived to see television and the landing of men on the moon, all in one lifetime.
Once we get to the automated society, I predict we will be the same species as we are now. Mankind will still have the same mental and physical capabilities that we have now. Or to put it differently, men have not changed physically even though we were members of a tribal society, a peasant society and a transitional industrial society. We can take a child out of a present tribal society and put him in our society, and he will grow and integrate into as complex a society as we have.
This kind of analysis give us humans the ability to be creative as were the men listed above. We have the knowledge to solve all our problems. Our space activities can deliver most of the answers. Energy, the biggest problem we face, in my estimation, can be solved with solar power satellites. All the energy we could possibly use, is available from space. Energy that can be the solution of the pollution problem and the global warming problem. But it seems that human leaders are committed to solve our problems with fossil fuels. And our space opportunity lags.
Population is another pressing problem. It can be solved by colonies in space. In fact, space can provide a home to unlimited numbers of our species. But all of us do not put space in the number one priority for mankind.
Along with the population increase comes the food problem. The energy and automated food factory will take care of that.
Incoming asteroids, a potential species killer, can be avoided if only we put the equipment and competent personnel in space. Why isn’t space the number one priority for humanity?
Now back to “Why Are We Here?” We are here because God gave us, and the only terrestrial species, the opportunity to become as close to Him as it is possible for a biological entity to get. When Henry Ford created the assembly line, he was doing God’s work.
So to give meaning to our individual lives, we need to “eat, grow, reproduce and die.” It is in the word “grow” that each of us can find meaning. Growing up physically is a necessity, so that we can gain the education and experience to be contributing creative adults. By growing up to be contributing creative adults become a little bit God-like.
The advice I give to everyone old and young is, “Find out what you really like to do, once you do that, the rest is easy, just do it.” This advice is the road to happiness and contentment. And in most cases, doing something you really like to do will provide you enough money to get the material necessities of life. And the person who really likes what he or she is doing, is going to be the person who will enjoy the most success at whatever endeavor they chose to be part of. The problem is that many of us don’t have the answer to what we like to do. That makes us prey to unscrupulous people who tell us they can give us the answer. Some of those people tell us they know God which helps them with their con.
The answer for all of us about the meaning of life has to be in the Torah. The Ten Commandments gives up the path to what we can do to satisfy ourselves and our community. Jewishness is based on the Ten Commandments. Many years ago I wrote a piece entitled “What Is a Jew” and I wrote:
“A Jew is a human being who believes totally first, in one God, and then in peace, in justice, in freedom, in truth, in knowledge, in honesty and in the brotherhood of man.
It is only when the behavior of a Jew matches this ideal, can a Jew be satisfied with his religion.”
What is the answer to “Why Are We Here?” It is to be as human as possible which means having a deep abiding faith in God, in the Universe, in life and in our fellow human beings. In the ability of man to create the automated society and invade outer space colonizing the moon and the planets, man approaches the Godliness in ourselves.
After I wrote the last sentence, I felt that it was cold and unemotional. What about love and human emotions? You have to read the “Why Are We Here?” in the Jewish Journal for those answers. Newcomen and Ford were not in “love” with the steam engine or the assembly line. Could they have been in love or in tune with the Universe?
So again, we are here to do God’s work – which is to increase productivity. That activity does not call for praying.
But we are human beings with emotions and feeling. We feel the need an emotional attachment to God which can be achieved through prayer. Every human culture I know of, prays, has or had Gods or God and has an awe of what God has made.
So take your pick. My son-in-law after he read this piece said, “I still don’t know why we are here.”