Elpee! Elpee! Elpee!

First, I am sorry it has taken so long to recover (if we have recovered!) from moving house; nevertheless the title above is not a whoop of celebration but clue to a concealed theme in this poem:

Elpee! Elpee! Elpee! the starlings cry
wheeling home in evening sky,
the folding flock outspread and high
seems beautiful and black.

Beauty yes, and black below,
but could we fly, then we would know
the colours that the sky can throw
on wings that throw them back.

And could we see with starling’s eye
the beauty of the fading sky
fall on each feather, wing and eye,
then would we learn, and would we sing,
Elpee! Elpee! Elpee!
and would we wheel and would we wing
the cosmic dance, the wheeling ring,
of birth and death and everything,
nor know the reason why?

A distant longing draws the flock
from city roof-tops where the clock
chimes evening hours.
A strong force binding mate to mate,
which narrows wider gaps;
a wary, weaker sense prevents,
when bird flies close to bird,
the flock’s collapse.

Each fluttering bird a wheeling heart –
a fundamental part – in one great family,
Elpee! Elpee! Elpee!

Sadly I can explain none of this today as I am sat at a fading computer far from home unable to recharge it. I will just say this, it is a picture which is better seen from another direction entirely: eddies in the stream (to follow).

Quark Flavours

There are six flavors of quarks: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom.
Up and down quarks have the lowest masses of all,
but heavier quarks can rapidly become lighter, changing to up and down.

A quark is a many flavoured thing,
with its ups and down, and a certain charm,
yet the strangest thing,
when it’s heavy, given time,
it will lighten and be fine.

Though stuck inside a shroud
of the proton – neutron crowd,
it’s position is uncertain,
as though hid behind a curtain,
part of the cosmic harmony,
dancing with its destiny.

We think of quarks as small,
almost not there at all,
but there is still a stranger thing to say.
Its unpinned-down position,
surely here but perhaps there,
gets more doubtful as we travel far away;
yet the chance that it is elsewhere
stretches faint and far forever,
this little shrouded entity
harmonic in eternity,
of limitless potential grace
throughout all time and space,
it is this that holds the universe together.

The Debate Of The Gaps

Can science explain faith? Perhaps, but ‘explaining’ must not be misinterpreted as ‘explaining away’. In the debate between science and religion the debaters are often separated into those discussing how we exist and those discussing why. Sometimes the religious argument is described as plugging holes that science has not yet explained – a retreating ‘God of the gaps’, but this is reversible. There are gaps on both sides. We can too easily treat the discussion as ‘either/or’.

There is a move away from the ‘God of the gaps’ to an equally erroneous ‘science of the gaps’ such as the apparent counter to Big Bang Creation theology by multiverse theories which avoid a single creation moment by postulating an infinite supply of them; or the infinite-finite source of Hartle-Hawking space which does the same by making the creation moment unattainable. It is easy to point out that neither answer the ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ question, but nor does religion. Both skate round an unknown centre.

There is neither a God of the gaps nor a science of the gaps. They are two views of the same whole.

Even if we could remove the need for God it would not necessarily remove our desire for Him. Lovers do not need each other, they want each other. Richard Leonard touches on this in ‘What Are We Doing on Earth for Christ’s Sake?’, describing a friend struggling with some religious work or duty suddenly feeling the peace of knowing God did not need him but simply loved him. If he died or did not finish, someone else could do it. Although God loved him doing it He did not need him.

Removing the need does not remove the love or the lover.

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,
seven!
Wow!’

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.

Our World

What is our world made of?

Hills and mountains, rivers and seas.

What are the seas made of?
Water and waves, salt and sand;
sand that goes between your toes,
salt that gets in your mouth and nose,
waves that wash on the beach and rocks,
water that gets in your shoes and socks.

What is the water made of?
Rain and rivers that run to the sea
for fishes to swim in like you and me,
for crabs that creep and gulls that cry
and creatures that never see the sky.

But still I wonder, now and again,
the water that comes in the rivers and rain,
that runs in the gutter and down the drain,
that splashes in brooks with a tinkling refrain,
and flows to the sea in the sunshine again –
what is it made of?

Tiny atoms too small to see
build all the world and all the sea.
They make the clouds that float in the sky,
and little children that wonder why.

Show me the atoms I cannot see.
What are they made from?
Where can they be?

Sticks and stones may break your bones,
bricks and beams may build your dreams,
but words, words…
Can one Word build a uni-verse?
a uni-world from a uni-Word?

Show me the atoms I cannot see,
Of what are they made?
Where can they be?
The sea is made of waves.
The waves are made of sea.

And the particles, the particles,
the tiny, tiny particles,
are each the focus of a wave
wider than the widest sea
that stretches through all infinity
and shimmering, makes you and me
and all we feel and all we see:
a universal harmony.

Mass & Energy

Shimmer, glimmer, shine,
when the sunlight shivers in heat,
and mirage pools flash reflected sky
on the tarmac road ahead.

Shimmer, glimmer, shake,
when the waving ears of wheat
roll like the sea in a summer swell
in field on field outspread.

Shimmer, glimmer, gleam,
when the stars in a milk-white sheet
shine down upon this darkling world
on which their light is shed.

And the shimmering waves that are here and there
in the atom’s uncertain heart,
reach to the ends of the universe
of which they are a part.

The energy of the universe
is bound in the shimmer and shine
of the speed of light, times the speed of light,
times the mass of the heavenly wine
that is drunk anew in the toast of love
that is His, and yours, and mine.

Hazelnut Forest revisited

In March I wrote a puzzle poem Hazelnut Forest, its title an equation,
λ = 2πħ/p
so here is, as I said would be, the promised explanation.

The forest is the universe when the Word made all things new,
and the Spirit found the first conditions good and proving true.
Its leaves, the smallest particles of which the world is made,
the calling birds swift flying in the dappled light and shade,
are photons that were called to be when light was first displayed.

Its title is a formula,
a particle’s waveform,
for everything is energy,
and particles just seem to be
the focus of a mystery,
the fine eye of the storm.

Another poem followed that wondered at the size
of the forest (or the world) as seen by wiser eyes.

How small the forest? We really cannot see.
We cannot give position, speed, time or volition;
to what is all around us, a truly strange admission.
As size get small and smaller, in the atoms heart and less,
in proton, quark or photon, and spacetime’s emptiness,
there is a finite limit bound in uncertainty.
How small is the forest? It’s just too small to see,
for in that finite limit is all infinity.

Men like Werner Heisenberg,
Max Planck and de Broglie,
worked out the math, and many more
have worked at detail and for sure,
where you and I give up and snore,
they plucked cherries from the tree.

A Circle With a Volume, I recall,
the last and strangest poem of them all,
came from Planck’s discovery
that length, like time, just cannot be reduced
infinitesimally small.
No matter what dimensions that we tell,
the smallest there can be, that we call Planck’s Length, L,
gives structure to the rest. There is no spell
that lets us cut fine finer till there’s nothing there at all.

The smallest, fundamental space,
the smallest, fundamental time,
are bound with that uncertainty
that binds the forest leaves.

Centre to edge is less than width,
the wheel’s centre to its rim,
your nose to your ear,
less than the wheel’s width,
less than ear to ear.

But the width of a fundamental
is the smallest distance possible .
Where can its centre be?
How far from its edge?

W. B. Yeats’ troubled poem The Second Coming that I quoted in this poem sums the uncertainty and the resulting fragility astonishingly aptly:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

From the inbuilt uncertainty of this fundamental seed, spacetime burst in an instant, followed by an immense expansion phase.
From fundamental to universal in microseconds.

This volume, this conundrum,
too veiled for us to see,
a mystery its diameter,
its radius an enigma,
the Sybil of Cumae,
time in eternity.

Ah! The Sybil of Cumae! Who was she?
Tis said she asked Apollo, who wanted her to wife,
that she might have, though mortal, as many years of life
as the grains of sand held in her hand.

False promises were made and when her wish was gained
her favours were withdrawn – Apollo raged.
Trapped through the years, her body aged;
kept shrinking in a jar ’til just her voice remained.

And why a hazelnut forest? In the mid-fourteenth century, following a vision, Dame Julian of Norwich compared all creation to a hazelnut held in God’s hand.
Such a tiny thing, encompassing all creation, shown her by God in a series of visions in which she saw the depth and greatness of His love for all mankind.

The Self Creating Prayer

There is a moment
when egg and sperm become a fertilised cell.
Another before fission,
before one cell becomes two.

Another before the embryo becomes a foetus,
Before the first heartbeat,
the first formation of the brainstem,
the first input from developing eyes and nerves.

Until it ceases to be a foetus,
becomes an unborn child,
still entirely I
before the awareness that is we?

Flesh is translucent to light, carries sound.
The womb is warm, with room to move.
The inborn baby kicks,
sucks, feels, sees, hears.

It learns existence is co-existence long before birth.
Do we re-create this moment
in the fleeting moment of waking from sleep?

Cogito ergo sum – I think therefore I am,
flees before I am therefore there is other.
The awareness of one’s body in the world,
when I becomes we.

Existence is a common possession,
without which there could be no we.
It gives us our sum – our I am
our summa – our totality.
It sustains and guards us.

Language can be traced back
across continents, across times.
Sustain can mean feed
or provide continuing support.
feed and guard have the same root PA
from which by different routes
we get paternal and father.

There is a paradox.
The first father of whom we become aware
is our mother.

We co-exist in a world interdependent with us;
in which we live and breathe and have our being,
our all in all.

From the heart of I
to the farthest bounds of all our sight and knowing,
all that provides intimacy,
the wonder of our existence;
the familial closeness of child and parent,
within which we are constrained
and free,
calls for humility,
honour, respect and reverence;
all steeped in holy awe.

We renew it in our waking moments each day.

The I that seemed to be at its heart
is an echo of a greater I who keeps it all,
in whom we place our trust
our hopes for the coming day,
the feeding and guarding that a father provides:

Our Father …