December 9, 2010


I picked up a battered paperback book the other day: “Stephen Hawking, Quest for the Theory of Everything. It’s not written by Hawking. It’s a biography by Kitty Ferguson but the work is heavy on science, as might be expected. Yesterday, on a dark and stormy afternoon, I sat nibbling at its pages when I paused over the following sentences:

                 “The longing to understand the universe is almost as ancient as human consciousness. 

                Ever since we first noticed there is pattern in nature, we’ve been trying to explain it

                with myths, religion and later mathematics and science.

We’ve all heard this sentiment before about man’s desire to understand the universe and his place in it. Speculations run the gamut from having no purpose to a guess that we are here to serve as observers of its mysteries. After all, if we weren’t conscious could the universe be said to exist? The question is a little like the one about a tree falling in the forest. If no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise? 

If I have to choose from among the theories about why we’re here, I’ll go with the observer bit. That way I won’t feel crushed when a publisher ignores my query or allows a submission to sit in limbo. Being an observer of the universe, I’ll feel less like a faded photograph when I lunch with a group and am ignored. Nor will I continue to be offended by e-mails that receive no reply… or when I’m re-gifted a scarf I gave the year before. What’s more, I’ll be generous enough to  forgive excuses that make me feel smaller than a singularity, like the one about not returning my call because a person was too busy — another way of saying I have no priority in their lives.

Do I sound peevish? Well, not any more. I’m an observer of the universe. If it bugs me, I’ll shut my eyes and make it go away.