“How did the universe begin?” That’s the question, right? Science tries to answer it. Religion tries to answer it. Where did we come from, what is our purpose—the two ideas are tied together for us. We grow up and live our lives believing the answer is somehow fundamental to the meaning of life.
I had an idea yesterday, though. What if the question itself is flawed? It certainly seems hard to answer—science posits the idea of the Big Bang, but the follow-up of course is, “Where did the Big Bang come from?” Religion says “God” as if that will answer everything, but it, too, is not immune to that follow-up. Where did God come from? The question is endlessly recursive. You can always ask “why?” or “how?” one more time, no matter what response you’re given.
It makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with the question itself. The inherent assumption that there was a beginning. Conservation of energy tells us nothing ever really goes away. There are no beginnings or endings—only transformation. When you throw out your old chair, it doesn’t vanish. It goes to the dump, eventually (hopefully) breaking down into its constituent pieces and becoming food for bacteria. When you eat a carrot, it doesn’t cease to exist. Your body converts it into energy and waste. There is no empirical example of cessation or spontaneous genesis in nature. Everything becomes something else, and sometimes we call this “the end”—for example, when someone dies—or “the beginning”—for example, when a child is born. But they aren’t truly ends or beginnings. They just appear that way, because of how our perception limits us.
What if we are extending this flawed perception to the whole of existence? Using it to formulate a question that is based on a flawed assumption and is therefore meaningless? Like an ant crawling around a basketball asking, “Where is the end?” when in fact there is no end or beginning.
The question itself is flawed: the ball is round.