What does it all mean? This is a question that burbles up from K. & my subconscious minds during our weekly hikes. I’m sure there is also a sprinkling of anxiety in the question as in, “Aagh! I’m going to die someday!” It seems there is something about walking through breathtaking beauty here in the East Bay* that lends itself to thoughts of eternalness and how eternal we are not. Like every other human, K & I have no answers, just lots of theories that are really just ideas and mythology. But we come up with some good questions and discussions.
To whit: Recently the question “Why do I exist?” lead to “Why does anything exist?” which we then rephrased to “Why is there something instead of nothing?” We talked about this and felt that although we don’t believe in God, the everything is so incredibly well-structured, from the universes down through sub-atomic particles, that it is hard not to believe in a consciousness behind it all. It seems that our minds lends itself naturally to this conclusion, that we are somehow preprogrammed to see it in this way. But just because we an inclination toward a belief, it doesn’t mean that it is true. For example, humans are naturally afraid of spiders and snakes, but that doesn’t mean they are the most dangerous encounters we experience. In fact, I (an arachnophobe) have a brain that perceives fare more danger at the sight of a large spider than I do when speeding down the freeway, which statistically is thousands of times more dangerous to me. So, similarly, a propensity to imagine a creator does not mean that is how the universe came to be. Our brains have a propensity for a lot of nonsense, which alternatively is the wonderful world of imagination. (For more on this, see my post on The Science of Superstition).
So, K & I next decided to do a short survey of two people in our lives who also read a lot of non-fiction nerdy stuff and spend some of their idle time pondering these things: H. and K2. I spoke to H. and K spoke with K2. When K & I reconvened, we discovered that H. & K2 had posited similar responses. The basic premise is that since time is an illusion and is actually infinite, it’s a mathematical probability that eventually an ordered universe will emerge. H. also observed that space is infinite as well, so there is plenty of room and well as time for orderliness to evolve. Some of this is explored in Alexander Vilenkin’s book Many Worlds in One (hmm, I guess I never wrote a review on this). Now all that is fine and well, but we still haven’t answered the why-something-instead-of-nothing question. Here K2 & H both venture into Big Bang territory. But why was there a Bang? Theories talk about the Higgs boson, and theorists can talk all they want about a particle emerging from nothingness to cause the bang, but no one can really, really explain how even a particle emerged from nothing. In fact, the only answer is that there NEVER WAS NOTHING. How can this be?
If you’ve done your homework and read any of Stephen Hawkin’s books or Vilenkin’s (mentioned above) or any astrophysicist’s diatribe, the theory is that there is really no time. Or if there is, it is non-linear. When K and I think “non-linear” we immediately think “circle.” K describes it like this: you can put you point on any point of a circle and never conclusively say it is the beginning or the end, for it there is no beginning or end.
To explore this further, we have to go beyond geometry. Time isn’t necessarily a line, or circle, or even a sphere. Perhaps it’s either a total illusion or it has a configuration that we are incapable of imagining because we are only capable of perceiving a linear construct. If there is no beginning or end, then there was never nothing because there never was “never”. K and I contemplated this for a long time, and even though we can say the words and talk about the ideas, we can’t really imagine it. It’s just too damn big and too far from our experiences.
Still, we came to these conclusions:
time is either non-existent or beyond comprehension,
therefore there was always something and will always be something,
therefore something did not come out of nothing.
And as for us, this means that on some level, we will not have a distinct beginning or ending. However, whether we will ever exist on a plane in which we can be experientially conscious of this is another question with no answer.
However, Lewis Black has his own theory.**
|Lewis Black – The End of the Universe|
*This links to the East Bay Regional Parks district, the first and largest regional parks system in the country and home to many insanely beautiful hikes.
** Yeah, I know I posted this before, but it’s worth watching again.
Today I had to buy a couple of birthday cards for some kids I know, and I was having a hard time finding kid cards in my neighborhood. I went to the local independent bookstore, which has some pretty nice cards, but none really for kids. I went to Chain Pharmacy #1, and the cards were lame. Then I turned my gave towards a place I never go: the Hallmark store.
Now, I was less than excited about the Hallmark store. I knew it would be a xmas fucking wonderland in there. I could see the crappy Santa dolls in the window which was surely a bad sign. I thought I could just go in and jet toward the birthday cards, grab the first passable ones I saw, and bolt. But I still worried that my greatest fear would come true: that they would be playing “Holly Jolly Christmas” on the PA.
H.J.C. is the song I most hate in the world. There’s nothing creepier than Burl Ives except stop-action animated Burl Ives, but the very worst thing of all is stop-action animated Burl Ives singing H.J.C. This song causes me so much psychic pain with its stomach-turning saccharine bullshit that all I can think is I must spread the pain outward and harm someone or something immediately.
So, I took a breath and walked nonchalantly to the interior of Hallmarks. But just as I passed through the doors and spotted the birthday cards section, what song started playing? You guessed it — none other than H.J.C.
Oh, the horror! A few weeks ago I tweeted that if I entered a store that was playing H.J.C., that I would burn that store down. I am a person of my word, so… well, come on! Sometime fantasy and reality are forced to diverge. Hallmarks, with all its cheap crap from China, still stands.
My fucking god! How can this be! It’s almost as if I *made* it the song play. And if that were the case, then I should’ve gone into the liquor store and wished very hard that I wouldn’t buy a winning lottery ticket. But of course, these mysterious magical powers only exist for things that aren’t worth a crap.
Apparently, I am not alone in my hatred of Burl Ives.
Hey, that title got your attention, didn’t it? You probably love food. You probably dream of brownies or a tasty curry or whatever. I’m here to let you know that some of us think food is boring. Very, very boring.
Okay, I don’t really hate it. I like a tasty meal just like a normal person. I just don’t want to talk about it. Don’t ask me what I ate for dinner two nights ago. I have no idea. Because I don’t care.
It seems that I am quite often in the company of people who are very food obsessed, because the majority of this country is food obsessed. Some people are are foodies but some are just regular folks who want to talk about what they ate for dinner or what they cooked. I think the only thing more tedious than this is people describing episodes of television shows you have never watched, which is only slightly worse than people describing long, convoluted dreams they’ve had.
For instance, recently I was in a meeting at work where my boss began to talk about what she was going to cook for Thanksgiving. Lady, I *know* what you’re going to cook — the same thing everyone else in this country cooks. She still had to list it all: turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce blah blah blah. As my eyes were glossing over, other team members chimed in and it became a discussion about the most delicious way to cook turkey. That’s when my feeling went from bored to hostile; I’ve always detested turkey, and a long discussions of cooking it was pretty vile for me. But, as this was ostensibly a work meeting, I had to sit there politely hoping eventually we’d switch over to talking about work (which, granted, can be very dull as well).
Overall, I think eating is a massive waste of my time. I have to spend time thinking of what I am going to eat, then getting the food, and then sitting there eating it when I could be doing some much more exciting. Because I eat well in order to be healthy, I can’t just chow down any old thing. Also, I can’t just eat the same thing over and over; in all things I need variety. Since I am a rational being, I understand that food is the fuel I need to keep doing fun things, so I must take time to eat if I’m going to have any fun. If I could magically live out the rest of my life without ever eating again, it would be okay with me. I think the only thing I think I would miss would be blueberries.
I’m writing this in the vain hope that there are other people out there like me who, although we like to eat well, we’d rather talk about politics or astronomy or hiking or what we’re reading or ANYTHING OTHER THAN FOOD. I’m also writing this as a Public Service Announcement to the vast majority of you out there: Before you launch into a monologue about food, check in that the person you’re speaking with actually cares.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.