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There must once have been at least a jiffy of wholeness, a twinkle in the cohesion of seamless belonging. Every cell may contain residues of history in its universal library. Our desire to rejoin seasons every step, pushing against the gravity of reason. It’s a contest engaged in that fateful instant when cells snapped and began honing skills for precisely executing divisions.
We talk about methods for merging with God or a Godlike essence and not necessarily after death. Christianity has us locked in some place by a God that migrates across many identities, from savagely vindictive to all-loving, and New Age believers visualize rejoining an all- powerful “Source” (dodging the iffy divinity terminology) from which we emerge in physical form.
Forget the illogic of yearning like a wilting flower to be restored to a place we must have voluntarily departed… Few systems of belief depart from this framework for explaining reality. Everyone seems to agree we’ve separated from an idyllic space and are driven in the purest way to return.
Without arguing against the basic idea, maybe we can examine the urge itself, take a look at the father without contaminating him with the choices of his children. What makes us, in the midst of real abundance and evolutionary success, eager to get the hell out?
Keep in mind that time is a tool of reality without enough truth to get all the way down to the foundation. The claim of “nothing new under the sun” has real scientific arguments behind it.
Not to say reality hasn’t been re-imagined and structures built that are different. Recycled is new only to the unknowing. Nothing requires past or future. No trail has been laid behind us and none waits ahead.
We are here now, as we’ve always been, playing in the present, again and again and again, without going anywhere. We keep shuffling the deck for one more hand, the difference between reality and poker being that, in a card game, everything doesn’t happen at once.
Poker, then, is impossible without the invention of time.
Comfortable as we are in a real world of three dimensions yoked into illusions of sequence (time), it’s hard to imagine swimming in a pool instead of a stream. But, give it a try. There’s no risk. Give your imagination a chance to edge a little deeper into a truth set aside.
The universe is filled with something or other throughout its endless, interwoven fabric. Even empty space is filled. When we lower the temperature of matter to 0 degrees Kelvin – that is, the absolute removal of all heat – we find what scientists call “the zero point field” still charged with energy. Mysteries in the emptiness abound.
There are wispy realms of stuff hovering in a strange state between real and potential and there are huge gulfs of invisible or dark matter, but never a true void. The rule we were taught in science class hold: reality is always full. This rule had to be drilled into us because it put the lie to ideas we’d believed forever.
In what storage bin, then, do we park our constantly created histories? Where is the past kept?
Because if there are expired seconds, minutes and hours – in other words, history – that storage area must be more massive than all of present reality by factors impossible to calculate.
Using our universe’s estimated existence as the lifespan, we’d need about fourteen billion years worth of jiffies and counting. The past has no tangible reality and is preserved only in memories in pitifully scant quantities. History is selectively, after some reconstruction, laid down in reengineered cells and enhanced by physical records. Even the memories selectively retained are known to be unreliable. The future, just like the past, is a child of imagination, not physical reality.
All we have finally is this. Try to get used to it. It’ll help you tell better stories, and it has more promise than you can imagine. Think about it. Beliefs about pasts and futures may be more barrier than opportunity.
What we’re craving through our religions and secular beliefs is, was and always will be right in front of us. We have everything we’ve ever wanted or will want already in our permanent sandbox. Here and now. We should be having more fun, but we have a very hard time seeing the truth. It seems impossible to pull off. Maybe it always will be.
Our five vaunted senses are far too limited to sort through the dense complexity of in- formation ceaselessly being fed to our brains. Some of it seems, to us, too preposterous to con- sider. We made up time in the same spirit as we made up shinguards and lampposts, tools that help us negotiate what would otherwise be darkness and danger. Now, like a houseguest with nowhere else to go, time refuses to back off and insists on misleading us.
It seems we have a hard time appreciating anything we don’t understand. Knowing always begins with belief and knocks it down on the road. Our success in nature has depended on our being smarter than anything else. Our challenge now is to become wise as well. We haven’t gotten far enough to justify all the facts we claim to have collected. Clearing them out, like centuries of pollution, will be a demanding exercise in exposing reality.
All the worthwhile arguments these days are about a single thing: what is the best way to talk about reality? What brings us closer to the truth? We need this conversation as a gimmick because, insult to our intellects that it might be, we don’t have the capacity or the interpretive skills to understand the foundation upon which we’ve built our mockup. Our mockup is sort of a toy, but we’ve begun to take it seriously, big boys that we are.
Reality is elusive. Reality is always in motion. Tides aren’t limited to what washes up and back in our oceans. Tides, currents, eddies invest everything with timelessness, refusing the requirement of a moment. We can’t say what we want to about reality because it changes before the words leave our lips. Hard core truth today is fluff tomorrow. No test can tell us what the future holds.
Life is full enough of surprises and scrambles to avoid monotony. Predictions based on what has already taken place help but don’t inevitably tell us what will be. Predictions, however, might tell us something about what we will think about it when we’re there. Narrow- mindedness goes steady with self-fulfilling prophecy. But if the art of predicting were really reliable, we could abolish anxiety and learn to be happy with the weather reports. Mountains will tumble into the sea and many of us will burn in the equivalent of hell, but hey, what’s to worry? We saw it coming!
God does not sit still. “Magic is alive. Magic is afoot” in Buffy St. Marie’s mantra-like lyric. She was talking about God’s vibrancy. “God is a verb, not a noun,” Buckminster Fuller is credited with saying, although it’s been repeated for ages, just not as cleverly. “God moves in mysterious ways” is a cliché, which says more about what we don’t understand or, maybe, what we resist than any mystery. God has always been the same. God has always been there. God has always been invested.
We are always talking about God.
When I was young, I read someone’s claim that the best way to talk about God is with silence. We experience God best when words don’t get in the way. So, what then are words? Not God? There’s no such thing as “Not God.” God is the only thing without an opposite. God gave birth to all contrasts and all opposites.
The problem with words is their innate, choppy clumsiness in a place where motion is rarely choppy. Words insist on pauses, complete stops and a gathering of syntax when honey is more like what’s on the menu. Words want better lubricants, which is why we soak them in mu- sic. Maybe music has it better. Listening to Mozart’s G Minor Symphony, it’s easier to feel a seamless God embedded in the woven counterpoint. Multiple levels ebb and flow, producing an impression of precise beauty. Words could never be written for it. Which is where the insufficiency inherent in music and words is exposed. Completion must include whatever pedestrian stuff we represent about nature with words. When we extend music to fit the words, we crush an elegance that thrives in a “not words” environment.
No one thing so far, be it art or music or religion has what it takes to let us competently talk about reality. We’ve never been able to include enough layers in the conversation. The game ain’t over until it’s over, as we say in sports, here again reflecting some chunk of what we know to be true about reality in this moment. Looking closely, we start to see patches, cords of fabric, chords of understanding, holding together pants in need of a tailor.
What do we know about this underlying wholeness?
We know it’s never been broken.
Our best strategy for understanding, so far, is the one we’ve always used. Democritus, over two-thousand years ago, made a case for atomic structure. His simple, elegant argument was that matter can be sliced into smaller and smaller pieces until it finally reaches an irreducible piece: the atom. This stood us up in pursuit for millennia.
Trouble is, though, once we found those atoms that, tiny beyond imagination, still fit snugly in the physical structures we recognize, we soon discovered their even smaller quantum components: protons, neurons, electrons. Going down that trail with scientific rigor, it grew clear that other possible things in nature, so small we have little hope of ever seeing them, might underly atomic structures and, going on, might have even smaller stuff underneath. And at the bottom, maybe no bottom and nothing- ness, an infinity of matter. Things don’t have to end. They only have to change. Endings are hu- man conceits, forced on us by our marriage with time.
Nothing should be terribly unsettling about that. Building blocks, even those we can’t ever see, are still building blocks. However, what we’re seeming to find is that the smaller the structural component, the more unlike our assumed reality the things we discover are. The question must be asked: which is more bizarre, the quantum world of indecipherable actions and potentials or the manageable macro world our senses tell us is “real?”
The quantum world is home to such impossible events as quantum leaps and nonlocal connections. (Seem might be a better verb for this than “is” because we don’t really know if these things happen or if they’re illusions our brains scramble to put together as the best guess we’ve got.) Ultimately, is the wholeness we are groping for invisible to us because our minds never evolved to get it?
Evolution has hard to understand rewards, if it has any at all, for wisdom or insight into reality. Wisdom and insight might be only incidental byproducts of practical survival, like tailbones and vestigial wings, things meant to be discarded but stuck in a phase, like appendices. Maybe, nature never bothered to teach us a quantum language. It’s possible we’re grounded for- ever in a maze of unknowing.
That doesn’t, however, mean we have no choice but to be permanently lost.
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