I’ve been thinking a lot about the Large Hadron Collider. I’m waxing philosophical, here, so bear with me. I have felt, over the last eight or so months, sympathetic to the lead electron at the nose of a high-speed electron beam, roaring around an accelerator ring at nearly light speed, every lap incrementally nudging closer to a head-on-collision with an opposing electron beam, traveling at equal speed. But, less dramatically, I’ve been thinking more about what they’ve found.
The intent of the Large Hadron Collider is to investigate the structure of the atomic nucleus. (I copied that from the LHC website). But it’s been doing more than that- like any scientific investigation of the unknown, it has the potential to change everything, by altering our perception of the nature of stuff. If, for example, the LHC reveals that energy becomes matter in describable/predictable circumstances, or becomes matter by describable/predictable mechanisms, it would radically change how we see the universe. It’s literally a tiny change, but it would be a boundless change, philosophically.We already believe/theorize that matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed, which basically means that everything in the universe was always here, in some iteration of either matter or energy. Everything that you are always was, and always will be, in one form or (maybe and/or) another. You are, and always have been, infinite. You probably knew this already, deep down. It’s the kind of thing you can feel, even if it takes you half your life to put it into words, or the words you finally find are from the Large Hadron Collider website.
Since the dawn of science, pretty much, humans have been searching for one unifying theory of everything- one set of rules to describe how the universe works. Pure science often distances itself from “WHY?” The more ruminative or philosophical science community tarries on “WHY?”, but returns first to “HOW?” as the first answerable question, since “WHY?” is a dependent variable. So far, most every new determination in science has been used to take the magic out of “WHY?”, to make it explicable, intelligible, rational. Crashing these electrons around and finding, in the resulting measurable detritus, the field in which energy becomes matter, is the scientific equivalent of finding the body of Christ, withered and carbon-based, behind a very solid rock. It means to many that there is no unifying force of creation. No sentient or, more importantly, benevolent force orchestrating the matter and energy of the universe. No God, loving us individually.
This is confusing to me, in the same way evolution somehow disproving any creation stories confuses me. In fact, I can’t believe one without the other. I feel closer to understanding the organizing force of the universe when destruction and transformation are part of the magic, too.
As Lex Luthor said, in the latest Superman installation, “If God is all good, He can’t be all powerful.” And that’s bumper-sticker simple, right? But it’s also gorgeous. Choose your nomenclature – God, Allah, Gaia(aiaiaiaia), the Universe – in the way that resonates with you, because that’s important. But the rest of the sentence is fine. The cancer is part of the magic. The dying is part of the magic. It’s not the end, or the tailings pile, or the dregs. It’s as much a part of the system as the fucking, the cheeseburgers, the birthing, the poetry, the fall of the Berlin wall; it’s as real and intrinsic to being as your beating heart. It’s not the shadow to the light- not the opposite of life or the other side of the coin. Scientifically, there is no opposite of entropy.
Entropy is the measure of disorder in a system. It’s not a philosophical concept even if it’s growing in your husband’s ass.
What is philosophical to me is the infinite nature of the experience of my stuff. If entropy is an equal part of being, and being is meaningful, then entropy is meaningful, too. Moreover, because I’m intrinsically related to the Universe, I’m comparably connected to you, to my husband’s cancer, to Rwanda, and to Philandro Castile. The space between us is expansive at the same time our connection is connate- definitive, part of the fundamental laws of the universe. And, for some reason I still don’t understand, I have the ability to willfully operate my own little world-builder. I have the ability to decide.
When I think about the electrons in my body, responsible for the communication of thoughts to action, and then think about how enormous they are, compared to the much smaller particles responsible for the creation of matter, I feel suddenly aware of how powerful that ability to decide is. I can make meaning. If I want to change the universe, all I have to do is change my mind.
One electron, at the head of a roaring stream, circling faster and faster, edging closer and closer to collision. One tiny particle, breaking apart the fabric of the universe, revealing a billion smaller universes within it.
I can love. And that changes everything.