We humans have curious minds and I use the word in two senses: 1) as minds that take an interest in the world around them, and 2) as minds being strange in themselves. Hamlet observed, “What a piece of work is man,” (Hamlet II, ii) and I couldn’t say it better. The entire universe can be bounded in the nutshell of our brains. We can contemplate the infinite while being finite, embrace contradictions with no discomfort, examine our minds with our minds and, according to Descartes, we think ourselves into existence. T. S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock asks, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” The answer is, “Yes.”
We humans dare disturb the universe in many ways. Global warning comes to mind, but that isn’t what I’m pondering at this moment. What strikes me as curious today is that even as we destroy our planet, we’re are in a desperate race to understand it before it disappears. Like precocious children, generations of scientists, philosophers, artists and all manner of thinkers have endeavored to pull the world apart for the pleasure of fitting it back together again in our struggle to understand the how of life if not the why.
The holy grail in our quest is the unified theory of everything. If we could work out how electromagnetism, nature’s strong and weak forces and gravity work together, then, as physicist Stephen Hawking described it, we would have a glimpse into the mind of God. (Blog 12/21/10)
Lately, we’ve encountered what might be a doorway – traces of the Higgs boson particle. But like matryoshka, Russian nesting dolls, each time we reveal one layer of reality, we discover another which gives rise to more questions. If the universe is a quantum system, is it stable or volatile? Will it expand or collapse? Given how little we know about this nearly invisible world, we face our known one each morning with a certain hubris, placing our feet upon the ground, expecting it to support us when, in fact our world is porous. Call it a cosmic joke, but it is possible that if we ran into a wall where the atoms are so arranged, we might find ourselves on the other side. For the article which discusses this, Click here .
Of greater curiosity to me is that science shambles so far behind what the mind instantly intuits. Science measures and observes. The mind provides the impulse to ask the question and gives us hints about where to look for answers. Intuition is always waiting for us — with our skepticism and need for proof — to catch up.
I don’t object to proof, of course. But sometimes I think artists, with their imaginations, have a deeper sense of the universe than scientists. Thinking myself a writer, I suppose this is an arrogance on my part. But then, if I weren’t a little arrogant, would I have written Trompe l’Oeil where walking through walls is encouraged?