Is the Universe a Friendly Place?

In August of 1996, 10-year-old Taylor Touchstone went swimming with his family in a Florida panhandle creek. Minutes later the mildly autistic boy, known for having no sense of fear, vanished. His family members reacted immediately; they knew that the creek emptied into a vast and dangerous swamp.

A massive search quickly came together. Boats and helicopters with high-tech tracking systems, and more than 200 volunteers, covered the area. Everyone felt they were in a race with death. The swamp was home for alligators, rattlesnakes, and water moccasins. One year earlier four Army Rangers had died while training in the same swamp.

After covering a 36-square-mile area over three days, the search effort came to a sorrowful end. The boy was presumed dead.

But early in the morning of the fourth day, 14 miles away from where Taylor was last seen, a fisherman saw a child calmly bobbing in the water. He knew immediately who the boy was, pulled him into his boat, and full-throttled to the dock. The boy was naked, sunburned, hungry, thirsty, and had some minor cuts and bites. Beyond that he was fine.

Taylor has never provided details of his incredible journey; no one knows how he survived – or travelled 14 miles. But photos of alligators made him very excited and happy.

Albert Einstein once asked a crucial question: “Is the universe a friendly place?” The only possible answers, “yes” or “no,” are both true. In a mysterious and eternal reciprocity, the one who replies receives the full cargo of his or her answer.

The structure of the universe tends to give us what we ask. We eat what we speak. In other words, we are all farmers. We plant the seeds, and then live by the crop that comes up out of the soil. Plant a yes; reap a yes. Is the universe a friendly place? Answer wisely; you’ll live by your response.

Taylor Touchstone had no sense of fear; he trusted his environment. And apparently his environment gave him full support. That is so like children. Bright eyes, quick smiles, and eager to go. Except for those who live in dark and dangerous places, most children instinctively know the universe – at least their part of it – is safe and pleasant.

Several years ago my second cousin moved to Los Angeles. Jennifer, so young and excited, wanted to break into the entertainment industry. But, in an old story, she found the road more difficult than expected. At one point she ran out of money. She told me, “I literally had no money in my account and no gas in my car to make it to work.”

Her desperate need drove her to call her mom. When Dorothy heard her daughter’s voice, she said, “Oh, Jenn, I was just about to call you. Have you checked your bank account today?” She had not. So Dorothy told her that Jennifer’s grandmother awakened after a troubling dream. Concerned about Jennifer’s welfare, she began praying for her granddaughter. When morning came, she arranged for a cash gift to be deposited in Jennifer’s bank account.

Jennifer had been walking past ATMs every day; her cash was that near. When she told me that story, I wondered how often I walk on, by, or around strong support from the God of the universe – support that is just a few steps away.

Yes, I know that people die in swamps and some lose everything and end up living on the street. But I also know that joy, faith, and vulnerability help young people to greet the universe with joyful expectancy. And so often the universe responds with strong support.

When author and professor Dallas Willard was diagnosed with cancer, he said something quite profound, “I think that when I die it might be some time until I know it.” In other words, the membrane between this life and the next one is very thin. We are all moving through a much larger and friendlier terrain than we ever imagined – the vast universe of the Creator’s design and generosity.

The universe is friendly. You can enjoy the journey, especially if you travel through it like a child.

15 thoughts on “Is the Universe a Friendly Place?”

  1. Seems life and events are much more than our simple labels of good, bad, safe, unsafe, harmful, harmless, godly, ungodly.

  2. I’ve heard the expression of ” going through your second childhood.” Maybe I’m there because I have less fear. I’ve also read that if you were a happy child, you will be a happy old person. It is the nature of life.

  3. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:15-16)

  4. Rosemarie Corsner

    Ed, Once again a very thought-provoking article. Thank you for your thoughts. I find that, “in the winter of my life”, I trust more in my supreme being for guidance. Life is good!

  5. Robert Moeller

    Great story Ed, helps me to know why God gave me a simple mind, and why I have been disconnecting from scarred people. This world dosent have any worse problems then 2000 years ago. Our Father wants us to have childlike trust and affection today and forever.

  6. I recall reading about that when it happened some years back. It was decided later that being autistic was what had saved him. He was not afraid of the night with its wild and eerie sounds. He was not afraid of alligators, or snakes, or even of being alone. His mother says that if he saw an alligator, he would say, “There is an alligator.” But it would not register fear because he did not know our emotions.

    Calm. Quiet. Still. He survived.

    And in the swamp of the world many are drowning, being devoured, …dying everyday. God has the answer for those who are lost in a hostile environment: “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” Isaiah 32:17

  7. Ed, when my kids were barely out of toddlerhood we would visit a relative who had a dog that had proven to be quite vicious. My kids would enjoy great affection and play from this animal while I couldn’t go near it.

    Your article reminds me of the words of Jesus that in essence tells us that we must endeavor to become like children, rather than children become like adults.

    Thanks for your insights.

  8. Chris Hoffman

    Psalms 23:5 says “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”. When one is feasting with God and others in life in the midst of troubling challenges the internal compass establishes a bearing on little to no focus on the challenges. One’s attention is on the feasting and company of our friendships.

    Thanh you Ed for encouraging us with this marvelous attempt to show us the need to enjoy the feast at the table. The quote about one passing from this life and going to Heaven and not realizing they are there for a long time is an example of the effect of feasting at a table prepared by God does to one’s life.

  9. Darwin Schierer

    Inspiring story. Yet it saddens me to think of those who have decided to choose poorly. Life could be so much more them on both sides of the eternal divide.

  10. Sara "Shelley"

    I will never cease to be amazed. As long as you live there is
    Mystery, keep trying to enjoy all the clues, and how they might fit together.

    P.s. Can’t help my healthcare training,and keep in mind I’m female with a healthy respect for scaly sharp toothed critters. Why in tarnation would anyone want to swim in that creek? 🙂
    There are plenty of reptile pictures in books at the library.

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