“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
~ attributed to Albert Einstein*
Is the universe friendly?
Is the universe friendly? For thousands of years, people have wondered about the essential nature of reality. Authors of the Bible claimed that the Creator of the Universe was friendly (loving, even.) However, more recently, the science of evolution has convinced many that the universe is so unfriendly that it is “red in tooth and claw.” Still others believe that the universe, while not hostile, is indifferent.
A small and growing minority of us have a different view. We have looked at data provided by the research of thousands of scientists and have come to a different conclusion. We now have actual evidence to answer the question “Is the Universe Friendly?”
Before answering the question, what is meant by a friendly universe? A friendly universe is one that supports life and awareness.
If we define “friendly” as “supportive of life, sentience and love” then the answer becomes a resounding YES!
The Universe is friendly.
Thanks to technology that gives us a clearer picture of the universe, we can now see that the universe is friendly in billions and billions of ways. In fact, the universe is so much friendlier than we can possibly comprehend!
Not only that, the universe is becoming ever more friendly.
The universe has a direction toward greater complexity, cooperation, consciousness and compassion. In short, the universe is becoming ever more friendly.
When you awaken to the friendliness of the universe, you awaken to profound gratitude. You awaken to immense appreciation for the billions of blessings of life. And from this appreciation, you have a sense of overflow that inspires you to “pay it forward” and to contribute to the ongoing flourishing of life.
To say that the universe is friendly is an extraordinary claim. Such an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence. Please, do not “believe” me. Check out the evidence for yourself. Below, is a partial list of the facts. Once you see the evidence, you might be like me, and you may wonder how you ever saw the universe any other way.
Aren’t You Being Callous?
What about volcanos, asteroids, supernova explosions, pathogens, cancer, war, fire, climate change, disease, mental illness, and all the other “non-supportive” events that wipe out life and humanity? “My daughter has cancer. Doesn’t cancer show that the universe is unfriendly?” Yes, problems exist and cause death, terrible pain and suffering. In suggesting that the universe is friendly, I am not saying that there are no problems, no pain and no suffering. I am the first to acknowledge the challenges of life. I also acknowledge that it vitally important to focus attention on these problems so that we can find solutions. All I am suggesting is this: more events support us than destroy us, and it is essential for our mental health and our creativity and ability to solve problems to focus on the blessings as well as on the problems.
Furthermore, by suggesting that the universe is friendly, I’m not suggesting that the universe is always benign. More importantly, I don’t in any way mean to be callous to the suffering that all people experience during their lives.
I am aware of suffering, and it is my goal to relieve unnecessary suffering as best I can. It is for this reason that I help people focus on the friendliness of this universe. So much unnecessary suffering happens when people assume they are living in an unfriendly universe. Paradoxically, people’s material lives are better than ever before, yet there is an epidemic of fear, especially in the US, the “thought leader of the world”. This epidemic of fear manifests as increasing depression, anxiety, addiction, consumption of unneeded stuff, name-calling, drug overdose and suicide. Part of this epidemic of fear is due to belief in an unfriendly universe.
When we focus on the benefits of our universe, our stress is reduced and we can think more effectively and creatively to eliminate the real problems facing us. Furthermore, by seeing the friendliness of the universe, we become open to ever greater possibilities for our future.
From Believing to Knowing
Some people choose to “believe” in a friendly universe, even without evidence. Author, philanthropist, and news anchor Jeff Bell says “we cannot know if the universe is friendly.” Jeff’s mission is to help people transform the fear of uncertainty into service for the greater good. To support his mission, he wrote the book, When in Doubt, Make Belief, cofounded Beyond the Doubt.com and writes a blog called Beyond the Doubt. In one of his posts, entitled “Is the Universe Friendly? You Decide”, Jeff writes that even if you don’t actually know if the universe is friendly, if you simply choose to see the universe as friendly, it will “all but guarantee you the best year you’ve ever had.”
I agree with Bell that choosing to see the universe as friendly will give you a better life. This has certainly been true for me. Unlike Bell, I see overwhelming evidence that the universe actually is friendly. My hope is that once you see the evidence, you will go beyond “believing” to “knowing” that the universe is friendly.
Data as Therapy
“Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions
for which you have strong supporting facts.”
~ Ola Rosling
Most people assume that the universe is indifferent, just as they assume that humanity is in never-ending cycles of suffering, and even decline.
These perceptions are beginning to change. For example, several recent books and websites have shown overwhelming evidence of human progress. Steven Pinker, Hans Rosling and Max Roser are all researchers who offer abundant, irrefutable evidence that shows how the world is getting better for most people.
“The story of human progress is truly heroic. It is glorious. It is uplifting. It is even, I daresay, spiritual.”
~ Steven Pinker in Enlightenment Now
Steven Pinker’s book, Enlightenment Now, presents 70 graphs showing human progress over the past 200 years. The evidence that he presents in his book is uplifting, spiritual and inspiring.
We need to understand why living conditions improved so that we can seek more of what works.
~ Max Roser, Our World in Data
Our World in Data is a website curated by geologist and economist Max Roser. This web site has data from the best sources possible, showing trends in health, food provision, the growth and distribution of incomes, violence, rights, wars, culture, energy use, education, and environmental changes. Much of that data presented on this site show how health, incomes, rights, and education are improving for most people around the world.
Data as Therapy
~ Hans Rosling
Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund describe the progress that humanity has made in health, education, wealth and other measures of human progress in their 2018 book, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. In this book, they show how humans tend to focus on negativity and overlook the positive. Their mission is to help people see the world as it truly is, not how our minds fear it is. In presenting statistics, they are giving people hope and clarity.
According to Rosling, people notice the bad more than the good for three main reasons: “the misremembering of the past; selective reporting by journalists and activists; and the feeling that as long as things are bad it’s heartless to say they are getting better.”
In a similar way, people don’t recognize the friendliness of the universe. Human psychology evolved for us to survive, not to see the world as it is. We evolved to excel in detecting potential problems while discounting the many things and events that help us. Furthermore, as we become ever better informed, we know of disasters from around the world.
Beyond human progress are the billions of years of physical, chemical, and biological progress required to make humans in the first place!
Following are facts about our universe. These are facts about how the universe supports us, ie, is friendly. This is not wishful thinking. As Ola Rosling says, this is data as therapy.
Billions of Blessings
Supportive events I call “blessings”. The non-supportive events I call “curses.” And in this universe, blessings far outweigh the curses. Hint: if non-supportive events outweighed the supportive events, you would not be reading this. Below is a small list of some of these billions of blessings:
• 13.8 billion years of cosmic creativity bless you with existence.
• Countless billions of joules of flowing energy bless you with light and power.
• Billions of ancestors that survived long enough to pass on their genes bless you with the gift of life.
• Ten billion miles of DNA, in the billions of cells in your body, bless you with the code that uniquely expresses you.
• 50 thousand billion cells cooperate in your body to bless you with the gifts of dancing, singing, loving and rejoicing.
• 100 billion neurons bless you with ability to think.
• 1000 billion glial cells support your neurons to bless you with a functional brain.
• 100 thousand billion synapses bless you with the connections that allow you to feel, to think, to dream.
• Millions of color-sensitive cone cells in your eyes bless you with the ability to see rainbows.
• Thousands of hair cells in your ears bless you with the gift of hearing.
• A billion billion billion molecules of oxygen bless you with energy from each breath.
• Thousands of billions of symbiotic bacteria in your belly bless you with vitamins and balanced health.
• Billions of chloroplasts bless you with each bite of salad.
• Billions of plants bless you with sunlight transformed into the sweetness of life.
• Millions of businesses bless you with goods and services.
• The sun blesses you each morning with the brilliance of a new day.
• Millions of receptors on your tongue bless you with the taste of chocolate and beer.
• Millions of receptors in your nose bless you with fragrances of flowers.
• Your limbic brain blesses you with emotions that move you toward an ever more wonderful life and away from that which harms you.
• Buddha, Moses, Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Mohammed, priests, roshis, imams, senseis, rabbis, teachers, your parents, grandparents, friends and millions of other seekers bless you with their wisdom to experience more love.
• Billions of neurons bless you with insights that bring more light and love into your mind and warn you of threats that might destroy you.
• Your voice blesses you with the capacity to speak up for ever greater love and kindness and to warn others of potential threats.
• Children bless you with the possibility of billions of descendants.
• Billions of your decisions bless you with ability pursue your highest values.
• Millions of your words bless those you love.
This is just a partial list of the many billions of events that bless us. How many more billions of blessings can you think of?
Is the universe friendly? Let me know what you think.
* Did Einstein say or write this quotation? Several sources indicate that this quote is falsely attributed to Einstein. Whether or not Einstein asked this question is not as important as the question itself. The answer to this question could be the difference between flourishing in grace and suffering in anxiety and fear.
NOTE: This post also appears on ArtofGrace.org/Awaken