"...for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one." - Albert Einstein
We sit in the muted half-light of a Manhattan office,
its Industrial-design quickly fading from fashion.
We're taking time to bond as coworkers, he new,
me struggling with depression and burnout
with work after 4 years. He loves science, this tech writer
and former philosophy student, and he wants me to know
that the universe is different from what we see.
The mystery unfolds right now, he says, the Higgs Boson
on the verge of discovery, the cosmos decoded,
unwrapped, open to minds with knowledge, complete.
He wants me - me - to know there's nothing beyond now.
He wants me to know that I can know what he knows.
Not that the universe is ordered, no, but chaos
pure and simple, chaos birthing chaos,
the real world that appears to those who can see.
...they're colliding heavy lead ions
to explore the creation of matter itself
and the nature of the strong nuclear force
in the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang.
After I snap the photo of the rock den
and the park path leading to it along the stream,
five white tail deer run by and cross
downstream nearby. I follow flat-footed
on the rubber soles of my shoes, not
to alert them. The twin fawns drink
clear water rippling over shallow stones.
The does see or smell me watch,
and the herd skirts away along the yard of a home
at the park's edge. But the buck backtracks
down the path and climbs the hill alongside
the den. It stands sentry at the peak of the den,
in clear view of the world (as in a Medieval tapestry;
hunters, dogs and horses closing in).
He stands motionless, trembling I think,
and in that moment I imagine I see the code
in his genes, bulwark against all instinct for flight
and diverting attack from the does and fawns.
"We're recreating, in a sub-atomic fireball,
the conditions that existed a millionth
of a second after the Big Bang...
I find peace in bridges and imagine floating beneath
rock arches on gentle streams, constantly changing,
seeking form, finding none but stubbornly sure there's
a source of my meanders along muddy banks that I carve
and shape to no pattern, no blueprint but necessity.
I'm happy with the thought that fish hide in my weeds
that wave dreamily in the shade of willow and oak.
"It's so hot and so dense that
even protons and neutrons melt,
At the tail end of the friendly discussion, I
mention religion, and he pegs me to rights,
and knots and binds me to who I am:
one of those, one of those who believes what
they all - all religious types - believe....
He cites with slight sarcasm Pascal*, the gambler
with God, convinced the bet is a gambit
of despair, sacrifice on a board whose end game
leaves no hope of doubt. He suspects I'm wrong
about Pascal discovering probability theory, and he seems
disturbed to think that a scientist could solve
the cosmic numbers game, yet believe still that God
exists, that a choice for now beyond now makes sense.
and we end up with a sort
of primordial soup known
as the quark-gluon plasma."
I stand in the rain after the deer disappear,
alive in the moment and the chance order
of nature that guided them into my presence,
then ashamed that I could not become invisible
to them so they'd stay and graze without fear.
Ashamed that I wanted to capture them in ones
and zeroes and twitter the image across the globe.
I tell him that humans need to believe that their lives mean
something, beyond this here and now; that the universe
must harbor some glue with words and things that tells what
humans must do to each other and how they can stave
off anarchy and build shelter against ruin, captive outside time.
That societies crumble and die when meaning disappears.
The mother steals her child's food, abandoned children
die on the road, or they are cast out of home at three
to fend for themselves and subsist as best they can.
We find silence then, he mulling I do not know what,
I wondering what life might mean in a universe
in constant change, reality outside the reach of humans
to understand, at least by us without the tools to see.
I walk to the car in the rain, smoke a cigarette, turn
on the game and drive home. Rain and mud soak my jeans.
Ablaze with eternal fire, doubt denudes reason
and its infinite desire for certitude behind appearance,
zero sum game of truth or dare, faith or doubt,
un coup de dés baffling surety.
The altars erode. Weeds crumble the paths
that go nowhere without feet to wear them down.
* Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662), French physicist, scientist, philosopher and Catholic mystic. Famous for Pascal's Wager, which says that given that if God's existence is equally possible or not possible, the best choice is to wager on God's existence and thereby gain eternal happiness. In essence, we have nothing to lose; if God does not exist then we will gain the same thing as we will if He doesn't. On the other hand, if God does exist and we choose not to believe in the transcendent reality, then we will not gain eternal happiness.
(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.