Overview

The loneliness and isolation of being a feeling thing in an indifferent universe can be devastating. Fortunately there's a cure

Reading Time: 2 minutes

One of the hardest things about being a fully secular human is realizing that the universe couldn’t possibly care less whether I am happy or safe, or fulfilled, or even alive. It doesn’t help that most of the pieces of the universe all around me—the ones shaped like me—care about my happiness only fractionally more than the hair in my shower drain does. Most of the time, I’m just an obstacle between them and the front of the checkout line at Kroger.

And if I’m honest, on most days I feel the same about them. Not proud of that, but there it is.

The loneliness and isolation of being a feeling thing in an indifferent universe can be devastating. There was a time when I felt it intensely for several years in a row. It helped me understand why people are drawn to the idea of an unconditionally-loving God, an insight I’ve never forgotten. It’s a story that solves not just death, but that crushing universal indifference, a problem we’re actually around to experience.

If you’ve ever felt yourself under the heel of that cold indifference, then had someone smile at you or say something kind, you probably felt a jolt realization that, for a moment at least, some small piece of the universe was not entirely indifferent to you. You might remember it washing over you like a warm bath. I sure do.

If you’ve never felt it, take my word, holy cow. I’m sure it saves lives.

I haven’t felt that terrible isolation or those brief respites since half a lifetime ago, when one particular piece of the universe chose to put me at the center of her concern and let me return the favor.

So there’s my definition of love for Valentine’s Day. It’s a contradiction of the universe.

Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.