A Word to the Reader
This book recounts the principal stations of a life that proved to be far from the ordinary. This, already, may be of interest for you, the reader. But this book is more than an entertaining read. It conveys a message that is important in itself, and important for you. The gist of it is not, as you might expect, solely to impart the insights and conclusions the author has reached in his own life. The message is that, but not only that. It is also to highlight the importance of the quest to understand the purpose of life—of your life, and of all life in the universe.
The author of this book maintains that there is purpose underlying life on Earth and in the universe. The evolution of life is not a meaningless accident, something that just happened on this fortunately situated blue-green planet. The purpose of life is not necessarily something decreed by a transcendental Mind or Spirit, although the existence of such a Mind or Spirit cannot be dismissed. Life’s purpose. I believe, is immanent in the universe; it is encoded in you and me, and in every cell of every living being.
This claim has a scientific basis. It follows from the realization that our remarkably complex and coherent universe cannot be the product of mere chance. More than serendipity is required to account for a process in which particles form atoms that form molecules that form cells that form living organisms. That random processes would have created the universe we observe and inhabit is astronomically improbable. In the time that was available for our universe to evolve from a condition of chaos to its current condition—13.8 billion years since the big bang—not even the genome of a fruit-fly is likely to have come about through random processes. Something other than blind chance must have been at work in the universe—something like a purpose revealed by the selection of preferred outcomes among multiple alternatives.
This idea of purpose evokes a negative response from natural scientists: it suggests the existence of something nonmaterial acting on material things and influencing the way they behave. This, however, is not an exorbitant proposition. The totality the Greeks called “Kosmos” is the womb in which our universe was born, and this quantum-womb displays consistent even if nonlinear directionality in its evolution. The observed facts suggest the presence of a form of intelligence governing the way things and events evolve in the universe.
The Kosmos appears to have—or perhaps to actually to be—an all-encompassing intelligence. This intelligence endows the processes that unfold in space and time with the tendency to create complex and coherent wholes: dynamic natural systems. The systems range in size and complexity from groups of quanta in atoms to groups of solar systems in galaxies—and groups of galaxies in the metagalaxy.
Purpose underlying the processes of evolution is a reasonable, indeed a highly plausible, proposition. Searching for it is not chasing phantasms but looking for something that is real and fundamental in the world. It is a meaningful quest, perhaps the most meaningful you and I could pursue in our life. And it could bring practical benefits. It could help us to align with the rhythms and balances of nature and the universe. Seeking this alignment is saner and healthier than pursuing artificial goals of questionable validity and short-term benefit.
My suggestion for the reader is to read this book not just for the entertaining turns and transformations of the life it describes, but for understanding the quest that dominated the mind of its author. Understanding and adopting this quest could lead you to find the purpose of your own life, and could endow all you do with meaning and significance.
Ervin Laszlo, June 2021