April 7, 2013
Yesterday, a friend of mine said something to me which had me sitting in silence for quite some time. He said, “I hope you find what you’re after in this life.” I had no idea how to respond to that and it really made me think. What is it that I’m after?
When I sat in bed and thought about it earlier this morning, I soon realized that I’m not after anything in particular. I’m not after a career, a love life, or anything that’s “out there”. Yet if you examine my actions, it’d appear that I’m pursuing those things, yet I’m not in actuality.
How could this be put into words? I’d say I want to find a wholeness in an everyday experience. To make my life, in myself, as I am, as complete as possible. I don’t want to run after “things” like a dog which chases each car that drives by.
I want to see each moment in a new light, similar to going to the eye doctor and getting new glasses. The world was fuzzy but then I put on those new glasses and could see with greater clarity and depth. I want to craft ever more elaborate lenses and viewing devices to see the infinite complexity in an everyday moment. Sometimes I wonder if I may be a bit religious, because to me, that is my relationship to God – a constant admirer of Its infinite creation.
Recently I’ve been reading a book by the physicist Freeman Dyson called Infinite In All Directions. In the book’s preface he summarizes his entire message in one sentence.
“Boiled down to one sentence, my message is the unbounded prodigality of life and the consequent unboundedness of human destiny. As a working hypothesis to explain the riddle of our existence, I propose that our universe is the most interesting of all possible universes, and our fate as human beings is to make it so.”
– Freeman Dyson, Infinite In All Directions
Imagine if you were immersed in an ocean of infinite depth, which extended in all directions indefinitely. It’s impossible to escape it, no matter how far you swim. There is no big picture. There’s no podium high in the sky which you can climb to see this ocean from afar and find its outer limits. There are none. It’s infinite in all directions.
Entertain the idea that there is no theory of everything. There is no absolute truth to it all. There is no map which could chart out this ocean in its entirety. If the universe was that ocean, every point is the center of all creation. It’s centered at you. There’s nowhere you have to go. You’re never missing out on anything. Nothing’s going anywhere. What’s going on is going on right where you are. There’s no particular privileged vantage point.
I suppose we might say the universe is and always will be. Whether you achieve it all or nothing at all, it’s never the end. Now that you stand there at the focal point of everything, what do you do? You’ve just woken up, each moment is brand new. Forget the past. Forget your mistakes. Your shortcomings. Forget what you could’ve done. Forget what you should’ve done. Forget people’s expectations of you. That all is lost in the void. It doesn’t exist outside of an idea in your mind. If it doesn’t help carry you to a greater future, let it go.
There’s no need to rush yourself, unless you want to. Look and enjoy. Find what’s beautiful around you right now. Everything focuses on now. Not one day. Not yesterday. Now. There is no one day. Yesterday doesn’t exist. There’s only now. Where do you go?
It seems to me that our current physical laws describe that everything is infinite, from a small pebble to a glass of water. So look at it and see it all in a new light. Look closely. Don’t just see, but see beyond as well. Think about what it is you’re observing. Try to define it. Think about how it got to be that way. The complexity will quickly rise beyond your understanding. It will slip out of your grasp every time. Try to define yourself and your relation to the this world you’re observing. No matter how closely you look or how hard you try, there’s always more. Always more. Always more.
Next time you’re having dinner with your spouse, hold up a glass of water between her face and yours and watch it contort their face. Move the glass back and forth and just marvel. Move the glass up toward a lamp and watch how each and every glass distors and bends the light differently. Microwave the water, heat it up, and then see if it bends the light differently.
Think about its chemical composition. Hydrogen and oxygen. Think about their origins. Think about how they’re fragments of star dust, as are you. Cool it down, watch it freeze. Examine each and every phase transition. Film it in slow motion, watch it crystalize. Think about all the atoms, jiggling about. What are they? What are you looking at? What is this stuff we call water? What is a liquid, and how is it different from a solid? Think about the chemical bonds, the electron clouds.
Or if you’re not into that, look at it artistically. Think about ways you “paint” water into a scene. Think of rivers, waterfalls, and canyons. Admire how water reflects the light around it. It can be blue during the day, or a waving reflection of the stars at night. Watch the wind blow and disturb the surface. See the waves flowing every which way. Or go out into the rain and watch the drops smash into the little puddles. Get yourself a slow motion camera and watch the circular sine waves flow outward, carrying the wave. Watch each droplet bounce up and down off the surface, like a tiny basketball. Ask yourself why all of this is happening?
As the sun peeps out from behind the clouds during a light rain, look at the rainbow. Water has the potential to shine every color in beautiful bows! Get out your garden hose and spray it at just the right angle, relative to the sun. There it is! You can see it any time you want! Countless little water droplets, floating on air, wiggling and vibrating as light dances within its inner cavity and shoots out toward your eyes.
It’s all in the details. It’s easy to get caught up in the routines of life and stop noticing these amazing things happening everywhere. The detail is astonishing. You can’t help but sit and think who or what may have designed all of this. Or maybe nothing at all? Another great mystery. Whatever is behind it, there was infinite attention to detail. The world doesn’t seem to have been built with us in mind, but anyone who looks at the universe in any depth will have to admit to its elegance in flow and form.
Each moment has its own truth in and of itself, just as a frame in a video reel stands alone, apart from the entirety of the film of which it’s a part. Sure, there are patterns. The world has its own order and there are laws, which are their own sort of “truth”. Things aren’t random. Yet, each and every moment is complete in and of itself. It’s a node on an infinite web, connected to you and everything else.
So I’m not in any rush to get anywhere in particular, but the world is a place of constant change. I move and the world moves, yet I’m always the center. I can swim in the ocean, and there are currents which will carry you to and fro. Some experiences are more challenging than others, but some of us like challenging puzzles.
You might say, “This is just an attempt to create a mental trick, hoping to make yourself content.” No. It’s not a trick. It’s a proactive engagement with the world. This is something you study and can understand. Once you know it, you know it. There’s no tricks to it. Think about what time is, what space is. What a moment in time is. What you are. Look closely. Not superficially, but in depth. See the world for what it is — infinite in all directions, centered at you, right here, right now.