What the universe was doing before you got here


I’ve heard a lot of different theories about the point of life. Everything from salvation and afterlives to there being no point at all, or that the point of life is just whatever I want it to be. I spent years trying out those perspectives.

Then one day I had an idea so simple I couldn’t understand how I’d overlooked it. Now that I’d heard everyone else’s opinion about the point of life why not let the universe itself weigh in on the question.

By this I mean that it might make sense to observe what (if anything) the universe has been doing for the billions of years before my grappling with the question. Because if the universe actually is up to something, shouldn’t that offer some clue as to what we might do with ourselves?

So I pieced together what I knew: when the universe started, there were just tiny particles and energy. Then some of those particles got together and formed atoms. Those atoms got together and formed molecules. Then those molecules got together and created stars and planets and skies and cells and eventually you and me.

In which case it’s actually pretty clear that the universe is up to something — increasing in complexity.

There’s something peculiar about this complexity too, which is that it’s beautiful. As beautiful as the universe was when it was full of nothing but subatomic particles, it’s even more beautiful now that it’s full of oceans and good music and meaningful conversations too.

We even have a sense of when complexity is heading in the right direction, toward more meaningful complexity. We might use a word like intricate to indicate complexity we admire, and words like complicated to denote complexity gone awry and the need for simplification.

So maybe the point of life really isn’t that elusive after all. Maybe, if we take a moment to notice what’s really going on, the point of life becomes obvious: to help the universe arrange matter and energy in increasingly complex and beautiful ways — just like it was doing before we got here.

And really, who better for the job? Because when we look for the single greatest example of complexity yet to emerge in this vast time and largely empty space, we find… me and you — the single most concentrated points of complexity in the known universe.