“Martian moons are Phobos and Deimos,
the latter translated as Panic,” I told you then.
It was mid-way through our junior year–our glory days.
I would leave you that very next week for California.
The last time we drove around the lake in your jeep,
open air, breeze whipping the hair against our ears, you
replied: “I don’t believe in moons, stars or planets.”
I still don’t know what you mean.
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”
T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”
The dance is ongoing. It is presence. It never was nor will be but at the still point of our ever turning, evolving world–that is us. And the dance is lovely and freeing if you stay there.
“If the multiverse idea is correct, then the historic mission of physics to explain all the properties of our universe in terms of fundamental principles–to explain why the properties of our universe must necessarily be what they are–is futile, a beautiful philosophical dream that simply isn’t true. Our universe is what it is because we are here. ”
Alan Lightman, “The Accidental Universe”
Astronomy week, when the class and I read two essays, one about the relationships of the sun, moon and Earth–and one human to another, and one about the aim of science to figure out who we are, why we came to be, is an exciting week for me.
I wax on about the mysteries of the universe, the idea of the multiverse, Big Bang, Intelligent Design, Newton and the Theory of Gravity, Darwin and the Theory of Evolution, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, ten or more dimensions of space, quantum theory, quarks, string theory, Inflation theory, dark energy and matter, the complete absence of a theory on how the human brain creates consciousness, and the overall pursuit of a fully coherent cosmos that adds up to us–what scientists had hoped to achieve through speculation, calculation and logic, beginning with observing natural laws, up til recent history when the Hubble deep field experiment revealed the probability of a multiverse.
The project to discover the cause and effect chain to everything had to be abandoned with thrown up arms, seemingly also abandoning the aims of the preceding thousands of years’ work. Alan Lightman writes about this interrupter known as the multiverse in “The Accidental Universe.” And when I ask students, who look at me as if I am on a 70’s psychedelic trip, what this all has to do with them, their reality right now, no one can answer–not even the ones who desperately want to answer something, anything.
Like history, the cosmos is just too far away. They cannot feel it, not even as a dream they may have had and can recall in that hazy sense of remembering a distorted reality deeply imprinted in another realm of consciousness.
“Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove.” Lightman
And so students interpret that faith in the unknown not as the spurs to discover what is out there but as the sigh of futility. It has so little to do with their immediate aims–surviving school, work and social media.
But it is human arrogance to require relevance to the human condition. Or that the multiverse is created in our own image, running round ourselves like the orbiting moon to Earth, Earth to the sun.
“The disposition of the universe–that crazy wheelwright–designates that we live on a wheel, with wheels for associates and wheels for luminaries, with days like wheels and years like wheels and shadows that wheel around us night and day; as if by turning and turning, things could come round right.” Amy Leach, “You Be the Moon”
I miss the eloquence, enthusiasm, sincerity and passion of this scientist to make the real imaginable and the imaginable real:
Teaching Amy Leach’s You Be the Moon (Sail on my little Honey Bee) today in class, I cannot help but think of David Eagleman and his brilliant TEDtalk on posibilianism. Though the made up term is interesting enough, I am completely enrapt with this twenty-three minute talk for its first three minutes when he reveals what the deep field Hubble experiment yielded several years ago. My jaw no longer drops because I have shared this talk with my classes semester in and semester out for the last few years but my mind’s jaw still does.
Posibilianism is also a fun kind of idea too. Enjoy.