Mr. Quantum and Ms. Universe

Imagine that there is a massive body (Earth) orbiting a more massive body (Sun) and orbited by a smaller body (Moon); and that, strange to say, there are living beings moving from here to there and from then to now, who constantly express their opinions about everything –if only to say, “I’ve no idea” or “Sorry, I’m not interested.”

Among the many phenomena for which these “Earth” beings have words, which they link together in conceptual structures, is the phenomena of ‘light’. Science has determined that among all the dots and squiggles that visit their minds, light cannot be represented unambiguously as a dot (the particle theory) or as a squiggle (the wave theory) and to do so creates an area that is unknown. One face of this paradox is that location and momentum cannot be simultaneously specified by a single theory.

This seems similar to how, when we look at the world as a flock of objects lined up from horizon to horizon, we miss the given-togetherness of everything. And when scientists interpret light as an army of photons storming into the neighborhood, we miss the ambient quality of how light fills up space and moves in unison with the space it fills.

Light is sometimes claimed to be the ultimate nature of everything ‘under the sun.” And how could something at one with the vastness and intimacy of space not be the ultimate occupant of this realm? When we treat light as an advancing army of photon soldiers marching in tight formation, we overlook something mysterious about how our experience envelopes us like waves of light, or like ocean waves at one with the water.

Science has expanded our view of the universe, but it may be worth noticing that all we ‘know’ about physical reality is based on how things look from the surface of Earth (only slightly extended into a sphere that includes our Sun and a few planets).

Even Einstein, who pulled our understanding of the spider web being woven around us and in us—as we gaze out at our ‘world’—had only experiential information about how thing appear from the surface of our small planet, as it orbits our medium-sized star. From this perch we look out upon our local galaxy with its billions of stars, inside a galaxy cluster that is one of more than 200 billion clusters in the detectable universe.

So how much of the universe can we detect from the surface of our small planet or from the Voyager space craft, launched last century and now a tiny fraction of their way to the Oort Cloud (which marks the farthest reaches of our local system like a peel marks the circumference of an orange bobbing along in the ocean)?

According to current astronomical theory we can detect 5% of the ‘observable’ universe (observable in the sense that we can see an object’s light as it reaches us from within a sphere, with a radius of the 13.7 billion light years that have elapsed since the “Big Bang”, when a singularity exploded out of emptiness). The detectable 5% is what remains after subtracting the 68% that is dark energy (simply not understood) and the 27% that is dark matter (not detectable itself but producing gravitational effects on other bodies that are detectable). That’s still a lot of stuff. And being able to see 5% of the macro world certainly beats the complete invisibility of the micro world–save for a few electrons and sub-atomic particles whose strange behavior have been revealed through comparably strange experiments.

It seems that the most exciting metaphors are coming out of the quantum world. We non-scientists have absorbed as much of Einstein’s discovery–that the speed of light can’t be exceeded by anything able to move in this reality—as we’re likely ever to do.

But, if we include everything that is composed of light energy, not just photons travelling hither and yon (where Einstein’s maximum speed for light has been proved to apply), the infinity of space and the vastness of eternity may not have such limits.

Here’s a thought experiment. What if those 200 billion galaxies are the hand of a gargantuan ballerina—each finger billions of light years across—and a moment from now she darts out her arm to gracefully prevent a stumble? Of course, we can’t see the rest of her body, or the other dancers, or the auditorium stage, or the freeway she took a few hours ago to get to the performance where she is dancing the lead role in Loon Lake. Why can’t we see that whole scene? Because the maximum speed of light only allows us to see 5% of the sub-atomic particles in her hand, as viewed from the subatomic particle we call “Earth”. And since everything is composed of light (revealed in Einstein’s “Energy equals Mass times the speed of light squared” formulation), the universe itself is entirely light energy, dressed up as matter, and dancing on the stage of eternity.

So if our ‘known’ universe is the hand of a ballerina (and the cosmos is moving with a speed billions of times the speed of light), that says nothing against Einstein’s discovery that the speed at which light arrives anywhere is the constant “C”. He was talking about the journey that individual photons take from one point of space to another. But when space itself moves, along with all its contents, how could such limits possibly apply?

Perhaps some dubious skeptic will assert “Look at the dinosaurs. They could scarcely bear their own weight at a height of 60 feet. How could such a gigantic ballerina support her own weight?” But consider this: it is the whole that makes possible whatever appears within it. If we are contained in a great spaciousness that is not exhausted by any enumeration of the contents we observe in it (some call this the mind of God) then when we contact that great space and that divine presence, all particulars are merely subatomic particles winking in and out of existence. There is no need for a support structure other than Great Space and the all-inclusive being-ness of God.

After all, that’s pretty much how my hand would appear from the perspective of a subatomic particle in the cluster of galaxies that comprise the finger nail of my little finger.

Being is forever and Space is everywhere, so how can there be limits of any kind? With nowhere to go and no one to go there, we have always already arrived, even when we fail to notice the great vastness on which we are sailing, in our ship of here and now.

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