The Eternal Possesses Time

As in the poem ‘All the Time in the World
the nature of an eternal ‘Other’
that pervades space and time,
cannot be defined in spacetime words,
though they are all we have.

Something other than time and dimension,
pervading space and time
but independent of them,
needs words outside our range.

So how can we talk or think about it?

We do not use language as much as we think.
Multilingual people are sometimes asked,
‘What language do you think in?’

Their answer is often delayed;
rolling language thoughts around,
they usually give an answer
set in the terms of the question.

But many thoughts do not use language
though we may not notice it:
sunlight through leaves, the flight of birds,
fatigue, frustration, longing,
the body language of a friend,
and expressions on a face,
do not need words.

When we communicate with others
our words have personal qualities,
‘qualia’, arising from our past life.
A mountain, a falling leaf, a knife,
each have qualities which differ
from one person to another.
No two people have the same past,
the same experience of any thing.
Your words, my words, have different qualia,
different emotional tones.
You hear my words,
spoken out of my past
and interpret them out of yours.

I heard of an itinerent priest
who preached in town and village churches
when local vicars were away.
It could be several churches on one day.
He joked about breaking the speed limit.
Those listening –  drivers, non-drivers,
who had known or not known past accidents –
would have different thoughts about speeding cars,
different qualia,
different reactions.

But we can understand in some degree
the qualia of those different groups
by extension of our own.
Our own qualia can be enlarged
by poetry, story, music,
by the emotions of others,
or our ideas of what they might be.

Physics, mathematics or words of spacetime
cannot define or describe the Other,
but emotions give a feel for it.
Physics, mathematics and words
do this when they stir emotions.
Some find beauty in a formula that others find in music.

That feeling of beauty,
rather than formula,
rather than musical notes,
is close,
perhaps as close as we can come,
to the language of the eternal.

The word eternal, ae-ternus,
simply means lasting an age,
an infinite extension of time,
but emotions tell us it is more than this,
something more than the word,
more than mere length of time.

The Eternal possesses time.


Why is there Something rather than Nothing?

This is for those who like trying to imagine travelling to infinity and beyond! It is a sort of sequel to ‘Eddies in the Stream‘.

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Something is something we can understand –
things are all round us, but why are they there?
Why is there sunshine and birds in the air?
nothing is no-thing, and this seems absurd,
nothing is something for which there’s no word.
Nothing is absence, and that is something;
no song for no singer that no-one can sing.
What are those things that just cannot be?
Just between you and just between me,
nothing is something, and that cannot be.

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Is there a Maker that calls us to be?
an infinite-finite source of all being?
or multiverses to infinity?
Religion nor Science have answered the question,
‘Why is there something where nothing could be?’

Nothing is no-thing, and that is a problem,
it describes both a void and things that are not.
I search for a word that speaks not of things,
that does not suggest an absence of what?
for a void is a something, and an absence is too,
and nothing is something that just will not do.
I search for a word and zilch is no answer;
I search for a word and get diddly-squat.

Why is there something rather than nothing?
Why is there something where nothing could be?

There is no word for nothing
that does not mention things,
or speak about the void
the absence of them brings,
then nothing must be something
and so we talk in rings.

So surely it is possible,
and some may well say probable,
that something so intangible
can simply not exist.
Then nothing is a no-thing,
an impossible-to-go thing,
so surely there is something
rising from this mist.

Space and time and energy
are something we can feel:
eddies whirled in spacetime,
an expanding, whirling reel;
a dark, flowing energy
with eddies of its own,
spinning, ever spinning,
in this turning cosmic wheel

And those we see and know
as fundamental particles,
atoms, light and molecules,
flying to and fro,
may be eddies within eddies,
that draw the flow around them;
eddies in those eddies.
that make this cosmos grow.

Eddies bend the space-time flow around them.
Spacetime tells the eddies how to move.
Something more than nothing is no problem;
but something we can wonder at and love.

I have a sort of feeling that your mind like mine is reeling.

– – –

Scientists often say the language of the universe is mathematics, so is number an essential thing? an irreducible something, the reason for ‘something rather than nothing’? Perhaps, perhaps not.

We cannot explain numbers to children without words; sometimes lots of words. As children learn numbers in words, so students learn mathematics – plus, minus, times, divide, integrals, calculus, matrices, in many, many words. The most complex mathematical concepts, cosmic infinities, sub-atomic minutiae, could probably not be said in the words of a mathematician’s lifetime. A neighbour in Sue’s Birthday Bunnies called numbers the collapsed waveforms of words, a shorthand for the infinite words that might define this universe.

They take out all the hassle.

But in the beginning was the word.

There is another word for which we have no word. See you in two weeks.

A Quantum Genesis

Back again (although still with lots to do) it seems apt that with a new house and a new beginning, to return to the theme of genesis, so here goes!

I have written Genesis and Science creation posts before (view here) but here I try to put a modern quantum physics and evolutionary version in the language and form of the book of Genesis (Bereshith in the Hebrew Pentateuch). Genesis bears evidence of originally being a collection of prehistoric oral records put into writing sometime before the early bronze age, and brought together at the beginning of the iron age. There is evidence to show that such generation to generation passing on of oral racial memories maintains an accuracy that exceeds that of the written word. One reason may be that the spoken word depends far more upon accuracy than the written in that hearers’ criticism of error is more immediate than that of readers of written records, making the speaker more conscientious. The point here is how a very early world view, predating any modern scientific approach, comes so close to producing a thesis similar to modern physics and evolutionary theory – something much more than ‘truth dressed up as story’.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Creation was formless and void,
darkness was on the face of the deep
and the Spirit of God brooded over the waveforms.
God said, “Let there be light.”
and there were waves of light.

God saw the initial conditions were good,
dark gave way to light.
The first era dawned.

God said,
“Let a space spread in the waveforms,
to separate waves from waves.”
An expansion separated the waves
and it was so.
Fermions, unable to cling together,
flew apart;
baryons permeated space differently,
providing driving and drawing forces.
Spacetime and the heavens formed.
The second era dawned.

God said,
“Let waveforms condense in spacetime
let gravity draw them together
and let matter appear.”
It was so.

Baryon waveforms – distinct from fermions,
permeated one another,
permeated spacetime.
Fermion waveforms gathered in spacetime,
drawn by the forces of baryon waves:
weak forces,
strong forces,
Here the Earth formed, with dry land and seas.

God saw it was good.

God said,
“Let the land produce vegetation:
plants yielding seeds according to their kinds,
trees bearing fruit with seed
according to their kinds.”

It was so.
Organic compounds forming a primordial ‘soup’,
organic compounds,
self replicating molecules,
primitive vegetal life,
single cells feeding on each other
until, some a single event,
the absorption of one cell by another,
formed a symbiosis,
both cells surviving as one,
reproducing as a single entity,
forming the first nucleated cells,
the cellular building blocks of the first plants
evolving into plants yielding seeds according to their kinds,
trees bearing fruit with seed
according to their kinds.

God saw it was good.
The third era dawned.

God said,
“Let the lights in the sky’s expanse
separate day from night,
drive seasons, days and evolution.
giving light on the earth.”
It was so.

The greater light ruling the day
the lesser light ruling the night,
the stars also,
shining on Earth,
driving tides, seasons, evolution.

God saw it was good.
The fourth era dawned.

God said,
“Let the water swarm with living creatures.
Let birds fly above the earth,
across the expanse of the sky.”

God created the great sea creatures,
every living, moving thing
with which the water swarmed.
Life spread to land.
Over millions of years, the time of the dinosaurs,
birds evolved.

God saw it was good.

God blessed them and said,
“Be fruitful, multiply,
fill the water in the seas,
let the birds multiply on the earth.”

The fifth era dawned.

God said,
“Let the land produce living creatures:
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals,
each according to its kind.”
It was so.

Wild animals evolved
cattle according to their kinds,
all creatures that creep along the ground.

God saw it was good.

Then God said,
“Let us make humanity in our image,
to rule over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air,
over cattle, and all the earth,
and all creatures that move on the earth.”

God created humankind in His own image,
in His image He created them,
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said,
“Be fruitful and multiply!
Fill the earth and subdue it!
Rule over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air
every creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said,
“I give you every seed-bearing plant
on the face of the entire earth;
every fruiting tree with seed.
They will be yours for food.
And to all the animals of the earth,
to every bird of the air,
to all creatures that move on the ground –
everything with the breath of life –
I give every green plant for food.”

It was so.

God saw all he had made –
and it was very good!
The sixth era dawned.

The seventh era lasted less than a millisecond, all was done.

A Hard World

The table pains the falling fist,
fragile glass resists the wind in the wind-eye.
The open sky bears birds on wings,
leaves blow, turning, overhead,
whirled under the cloud-race.
Air I cannot see cools my face,
warms my breath.

A million billion atoms,
particles beyond number,
each an uncertain focus,
a rippling point of action.
Their seeming infinite waveforms,
their flowing, ordered disorder,
are this cosmos.
Cosmos, an ancient word for order,
universe, uni-verse, one-Word,
with echoes rolling, calling,
from space-time’s first beginning.

But why are hard things hard
if made of shimmering space?
a mere focus of waves?

Why not?
The particles in the table
are focussed, no more, no less,
that those that jarred in my fist.
Can mere waves hit hard?
Ask a tsunami.

And when a tsunami dies, and the sea is calm,
where is it?
To every action there is a reaction.
The tsunami’s passage, its strike and fall,
the deaths it shares in its own,
echo and re-echo in the sea, the land.
The whole earth,
the whole cosmos,
rings with its toll.

Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.

How Do I Love Thee?

Oceans roll across our turning Earth,
wave on wave on wave,
from shore to shining shore,
an echo of our turning universe,
a harmony of fluid time and space,
light-wave on light-wave,
from star to shining star.

When creation’s waves flowed in the deep,
like a dream new forming in a sleep,
the Spirit brooded on them,
found them good,
and God so loved the world.

As a child I stood upon the beach
waiting for the seventh wave,
‘That was a big one!
one, two, three,
four, five, six,

Truth to tell it was sometimes six or eight,
or more, or less.
But seven’s the one I’d wait.

Now I am older I see the waves on waves,
small upon larger,
large on larger still.
And the seventh, seventh wave,
that like some moving hill
comes with thrust and thunder
like the boom in sea caves yonder
that echo with the thrill
of rising, turning sea-storms
which pass, and all is still.

Oh, You who love the world:
How do I love thee?
Let me count the waves.

God’s Daydream

Last September I posted a scientific parallel of Genesis. Here it is again as a children’s story:

Some of God’s days are longer than others and some much shorter. Some are made up of lots and lots of our days. Peter, a very good friend of Jesus, said one of our days could be like a thousand years for God, and a thousand of our years could be like just one day for Him. He really doesn’t mind.

This story is about God’s days, his first special ones.

God’s First Day – Let there be light.

It is a story before all stories, the story of a daydream. It wasn’t a dream in the night because there was no night yet, and it wasn’t a dream in the day because there was no day yet. It was a daydream about a day that hadn’t happened. There was nothing, an emptiness with no people, no animals and no places for them to be. But the emptiness shimmered with little almost-waves like the surface of a calm sea just before the wind comes, but these were not almost-waves of water, they were almost-waves of light.

God knew His day needed light so he blew on the almost-waves and said ‘Let’s have light.’ They shimmered and shimmered until suddenly there it was, beautiful and dazzling and a little bit frightening. Well, actually, much more than a little bit – it was very frightening.  That is it would have been if we had been there to be frightened but luckily for us we weren’t and God liked it and there was no longer nothing. There were great, glorious waves of light.

It was the first day and it went by in a flash, which was quite long enough for God.

God’s Second Day – space.

The dancing light waves pushed and pressed at each other like children fighting for sweets. ‘All that light with nothing to do and nowhere to go.’ thought God. ‘I think there should be some order here.’

So he made a rule: some waves could not be in the same place at the same time but other than that they could do what they liked (actually he made some other rules we call the initial conditions but I don’t want to bore you with that).

The waves did as they were told. They flew here and there (which was of course the first ‘here and there’ – before that there was nowhere). As they flew they changed. They became red and green and blue, and strong and weak, and big and small – all the colours of the rainbow and many more things you and I could hardly understand and the space between them became bigger and bigger. It was the second day.

God’s Third Day – the Earth forms with land, seas and early life.

God said, ‘If they carry on like this they will fly away and disappear again. Let’s have a little bit of gravity here.’

And the waves came together in space and, wherever they did, they behaved as though they were tiny specks, smaller than the smallest piece of dust, but so many that they made galaxies and stars and planets and moons and all sorts of places – and one of them was our own home, Earth.

In the Earth, and other places too for all I know, some of them got together and made tiny almost-plants like the first almost-waves and these made more and more until they got together and began to build real plants. Each new plant could make more, bigger and bigger and bigger ones.

It was the third day, a very long one. For us it would have been millions of millions of years but to God it was just another day.

God’s Fourth Day – the seasons of the sun and moon, life in seas and land.

God said ‘Let’s have a few changes here.’

Now, if you remember, everything was made of waves of light, so the plants needed light to grow and change and they got most of it from the Sun and the Moon and the stars. The Moon is big like a small planet although it is not as big as our Earth. We are like two planets turning round and round each other as we go round the Sun together. This makes summer when it is brighter and hotter, and winter when it is colder and dimmer, and the in-between times, spring and autumn. It makes the sea tides rise and fall, and gives us bright days and dark nights.

All these changes caused changes in the plants. After millions of our years some of them changed a lot but to God it was just another day. The fourth one.

God’s Fifth Day – the spread of mammals.

God’s fifth day was even longer. Slowly the changing seasons and tides, and days and nights, and all the changes that the plants had to make to keep up, made the seas swarm with plant life and some of them became almost-animals. God liked that.

‘Let’s have more.’ He said.

So just as the almost-waves had become light, and the almost-plants became real plants, so the almost-animals became real animals. It took a very long time, fifty million of our years, until the seas became the home of millions of tiny creatures. Fifty million years is a very long time but it took a hundred million years before a very different animal grew called Trigonotarbids. It was different because it lived out of the water. It was the first land animal.

Have you been counting? I have. So far God’s fifth day has been a hundred and fifty million of our years but it wasn’t over yet! It was another two hundred million years before much larger animals grew. You will have heard of these, they were Dinosaurs.

And still God’s fifth day was not over!

The Dinosaurs roamed the Earth for another hundred and seventy million years. There were lots of them: small ones, large ones, very, very large ones, even some that could fly, but eventually they came to an end and the only ones left were some of the ones that could fly. They became birds. I expect you guessed that. And that was the end of God’s fifth day.

If you have been counting it took five hundred and twenty million of our years, and if you weren’t counting it still took five hundred and twenty million.

God’s Sixth Day – the coming of Mankind.

Once the big dinosaurs were gone the world was safer for smaller animals. God’s dream was getting better and better.

‘I like them.’ Said God, ‘Let’s have some more.’

So monkeys and pigs and songbirds and horses and camels and little shrews and all sorts of creatures spread far and wide but God’s daydream was still not finished.

God said, ‘There’s no-one else here quite like me. I want someone to share it with.’

He didn’t mind what they looked like because he had made many different creatures, but he wanted someone who would be pleased with this world and love it like he did – friends who could look after it all. Once the animals had spread all over the Earth, which took nearly sixty million of our years, God breathed his spirit into one of the creatures and it loved the world he had made. After many more millions of our years it became us. That was the end of God’s sixth day.

God’s Seventh Day – He rests.

So the heavens and the earth were finished and everything in them, and on the seventh day of God’s daydream he blessed it because it was the day that he rested from all the work that he had done. The seventh day went by in a flash just like the first.

Then the serious work began.

First Causes

I threw a pebble in the pond,
The ripples spread so gay
And bouncing back from bank and frond
I heard the ripples say,

‘Before the pebble there was nought,
No ripple, nor no flood,
And had we not the pebble caught
The world would be but mud.’

I laughed aloud and heard the air
Call echoes from the wood,
‘No life ‘till we, the echoes fair,
Took flight and found life good.’

The stars go round and men grow old,
And many say that we
Arose from chaos long ago,
Self-willing and so free.

‘And there is nothing more we need;
Before us there was none,
And only to ourselves we heed,
Until our time is done.’

But yet an echo in my heart,
A ripple in my blood,
Tells of a whole of which I’m part,
And bears the name of GOD.