I had a long and convoluted conversation with my stock broker this morning. Times are volatile for the market and for the world, and so we bent our heads together to examine ways to preserve capital. In the end, we concluded no place was safe. Putting money in a bank, bonds or in an annuity is no hedge against inflation. Steady interest rates, though secure, won’t keep up with increases even in the cost of medical care. Gamble on stocks and an investor is likely to see a portfolio’s value expand and contract faster than an accordion during a performance of Flight of the Bumble Bee. Safe is a concept we should probably eliminate from our thinking. Life is risky and, according to Don Page, quantum cosmologist at the University of Alberta, unpredictable because the laws of cause and effect don’t exist.
To ask which came first, the chicken or the egg, is a meaningless question because, “Causality within the universe is not fundamental.” (“What Came Before the Big Bang?” by Alan Lightman, Harper’s, January 2016, pg. 28.) Even physicisist Steven Hawking describes the heavens as “…neither created nor destroyed.” They just are. (Ibid pg. 26)
We already know the human mind is also less knowable than we once thought. Reality is limited to what our brains can process. We don’t hear like a dog or see the world with the clarity of an owl.
Nonetheless, I wake up each morning and presume the ground will stay beneath my feet. The presumption is a risk, of course. Seen from the quantum perspective, getting out of bed is an act of courage. We might be wiser to close our eyes and go on sleeping… or maybe we are asleep? My novel, Trompe l’Oeil asks, “Can we be certain there is a difference between the two states?”
With no assurances about the world around us, we mortals face each day like Don Quixote. We explore our surroundings with a set of presumptions which we attempt to impose upon the information delivered by our senses. Is the universe knowable? Doubtful. And still we pursue knowledge of it. Curious behavior and just a tad insane.
Why do we continue the quest? For no more noble reason than we wish to know. As I‘ve said, curiosity is the source of our divine nature or our madness. Either way, we long for a higher cause and to belong to a force greater than ourselves. Does God exist? I don’t know. But, I’m inclined to think that if there were no God, we’d be forced to invent one.
(Originally published 1/15/2016)