My friend recently told me that the world and universe was created for human happiness. She commented how the world is grand, amazing, colorful, and full of beauty. Of course, I could not disagree with her. From my own observations and in watching the stunning Planet Earth DVD series, the world appears to be all of these things.
Yet was the earth and its various biological systems created for human happiness? Is a stunning sunset with a backdrop of mountains made for humans? We would like to think so… but it assumes that in enjoying these sights and wonders, we are made special.
We witness a wonderful sunset and a nice feeling arises. Nothing new there, but it is that rising feeling that tells us more about ourselves than about our environment.
For example, a beautiful bird is not put there for bird-watching. It’s foliage is not for our enjoyment. The actual purpose is biological as the beautiful colors are there for the purpose of mating. They are beautiful because beauty works. Its a simple as that.
Mountains are there for their own purpose. They were not created for human appreciation but simply represent the collisions of continents. Yet our appreciation of them leads us to believe that they are a wonderful gift proving that we are cherished and special.
The stunning space environment we see courtesy of Hubble was there before we possessed powerful telescopes. Those stars have already been there for billions of years, way before our species even existed! The fact we are now able to witness them does not change our fundamental relationship with the universe. But it does change our perception of the universe. We begin to think that we are unique and special because we have witnessed something amazing. We extrapolate these powerful feelings of gratitude into projections of ownership.
But it is not ownership that makes something beautiful. Art is beautiful because it works, not because we can possess it or derive an emotional meaning from it. A beautiful setting is there regardless whether we enjoy it or not.
And when we do come across a beautiful setting, we are challenged to recognize that gratitude towards the planet and universe will naturally arise, but should be based on appreciation for its own sake, and free from any taint of ownership and delusion.