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This freelancer’s tangentially related musings on the fields of architecture, landscape architecture & urban design. Useful sometimes. Acerbic always.

Other writings: City Blogs / Urban Nature

The Universe doesn't care about you (sorry).

Photo by  Thomas Peham  on  Unsplash

When people refer to the universe as a caring, protective entity, I wonder if they’ve thought about how strongly this is tied to western white privilege. The concept that your hopes, dreams, and pursuits are more worthy of universal blessings than those of, say, a refugee child in a stinking camp on an island off the coast of Australia, would certainly be abhorrent to most creative and caring people.

I’m confident that you would never say that your dreams are better or more worth-while than someone else’s.

But when you introduce the concept of receiving gifts from the universe - a universe that cares about you and wants to reward you - you are actually proposing that you are deserving. If we look around at the state of the world we must also admit, then, that some must not be deserving. Or, they must be deserving of punishment, trauma, and pain. Is that something you are comfortable with?

The idea that some are deserving, and some are not deserving of special cosmic consideration is a foundational hallmark of Religious Conservatism, Sexism, Classism and Racism. That’s not a group of ‘ism’s’ that I want to be associated with.

I’d ask you to question yourself as to why you believe you personally are deserving of universal gifts, fated encounters that lead to success, and other types of ‘synchronistic’ coincidence. Is it because the universe cares about you, or is it because you’ve been privileged to grow up in a body, skin color, family situation and economic condition that provided you with uncountable benefits, connections & support systems that enable you to go about your life pursuing your dreams instead of walking 5 km every morning to collect water for your family?

Yes – I am angry about this. I am as angry about this as I am about other types of privilege and the vestiges of racism and everyday antagonism that are taken as ‘just fine’ by most western white people. This isn’t a passive, non-harmful belief system; it’s an insidious, corrosive belief that propagates a system of people who deserve and people who don’t.

 

Digging into the “Universe Cares” theory

 

The widespread, popular belief that successful, happy people are that way because they have “put out” positive energy and requests into a caring, omniscient universe that then answers these requests is a dangerous belief that undermines the work we all need to do to break up entrenched privilege.

It’s an attractive and simplistic idea: Simply make your request known to the universe and give it over to the universe to handle. Begin living your life in anticipation of a positive universal response. Wait for blessings to pour in. Notice the blessings as they happen and associate them positively with your request. Thank the universe for taking care of you.

There are plenty of people who swear by the power of this simple philosophy, claiming to have received things they were dreaming about just from positively imagining and wishing for the universe to provide it for them.

Unfortunately, rather than attributing their successes to their historical privileges and personal thoughts and actions, they give credit to a “Caring Universe” or, in other words, a cosmic entity that has your own personal best interests at heart.

One of the fatal flaws in this belief is that it can only work positively in one direction.

If we flip the situation and imagine someone who suffers immense personal tragedy we would never attribute this to a Caring Universe. Rather, we’d switch off our notions about a Caring Universe and resort to ‘random chance’ ‘misfortune’ and the like. We would fully admit that our own actions and thoughts have no impact on the receipt of traumatic events in our life. Certainly we would never say that someone put out negative energy into the universe and got pain & suffering by choice.

But it can’t work both ways – either we can control the blessings & punishments we receive from the universe with our thoughts, wishes and desires, or we can’t.

When we think of the endemic issues in the world from food insecurity and inadequate nutrition to violent conflict and the suppression of human rights it becomes almost impossible to truly believe in a Caring Universe. Why does the universe care about YOU and your pursuits but not those of the ostracized widows of India? Why does the universe want to provide you with blessings but not the equally deserving orphans of genocide in Rwanda? Why do you believe that your hopes and dreams are worthy of attention from a Caring Universe, trusting that your positive energy is enough to bring about “synchronicity” when the hopes and dreams of an economic migrant are left to rot?

It’s an indication of supreme hubris and western white privilege to live confidently in the belief that the universe is looking out for you.

 

A better explanation

 

When someone has decided they really want something they tend to put their focused attention on it. The formidable power of the human brain to solve problems and notice patterns should not be underestimated. It is both the tenacious, dogged pursuit of a desire and the intrinsic support systems we are born into–whether deserved or not–that lead us to achieve relative success and happiness in our pursuits.

Sometimes, if the economy is good and you enjoy good health, things will appear to coincidentally work out for the best. Once you mentally commit to a path it tends to create clarity and free up needed mental space to get to work figuring out how to accomplish something. You might notice people and situations appearing that seem well placed to help you in pursuit of your goal (known in the Universe Cares theory as ‘synchronicity’). In reality they were not placed there by a Caring Universe, they were always there and you have only just recently decided to notice them.

Similarly, you might doggedly pursue a dream and on launch day… nothing happens. Perhaps the venture you’ve poured your time and savings into fails spectacularly through no fault of your own. But, if your dreams and pursuits have a solid center of gravity within you, you will know that the failures and successes you experience are equal parts effort, privilege, and random chance.

You will not blame yourself for not thinking positively enough or not having enough blind faith in a Caring Universe to support you if your venture fails. You will know that it has nothing to do with being deserving or not. If things do work out, you will be able to attribute your successes where they belong (within yourself, with your own determination & hard work, based on the systems that support you) rather than the unseen hand of a cosmic director who operates in your favor (or not).

I suppose at the base of it my questions is…

Why would you want to give your autonomy to the universe in the first place?

 

So:

Plan for success.
Prepare for failure.
The universe doesn’t care either way.
— Derren Brown