Sea Waves

How shall we describe the world?
With what shall we compare it?

The world is like a sea
over which the wind blows.
Its ripples chase the wind and one another,
‘I am a standing wave!’
‘I am a running wave!’
‘This sparkling expanse is our world!’

None know of the depth beneath,
and little of the wind above,
or unbounded space and time
where other waveforms speed.
All fear the shore where they will die.

They are each a focus of the whole:
the depth below, the wind above,
the sea, the shore, the great beyond;
that symphony in which their echoes carry,
which makes the world ring,
where their souls sing
in harmony.

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.

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.

Pain and Prayer

When I began this site in June 2015 I wrote that all existence is co-existence (the same theme pervades my book Namestone). There is a use for this in dealing with those pains, small or large, that we suffer from time to time, and the more persistent ones that just won’t go away.

Pain can be overwhelming, dominant, crippling, making prayer come in unavoidable gasps or silent sobs.

But not always.

Pain is a master of disguise. It hides under a cloak of words, masquerades as a hundred little irritants, small smarts, failures. The prayers we make at those times can be just as involuntary. Mistaking them for blasphemies we may not recognise them as prayers; what we get may be an answer, but not as we know it. We can be as dissatisfied with our prayers for ourselves as easily as with our prayers for others. We all have our share of pains and weaknesses, or worries and woes – unhappy pains, the many little or large ‘crosses’ we carry in our luggage through life.

But if Christ bore the pain of the cross for our sake, for our sins, our failings, can we not bear these little things for others? Use them as a reminder. Every time you feel your pain, commit to God a pain someone else carries. Do not ask for it to be taken away, dedicate it to that someone. Ask for it to be a reminder of that of your friend. Every time you feel it, commit your friend’s trouble to the arms of God. Co-existence is not only getting along with other people but caring and sharing.

You may find you have gone for a time without feeling it. That was good. Then it returns. That is good too, a reminder of your friend. Phone or speak to her, to him. Do not mention your own problem, show you care about hers, about his. Shared pain, even when your friend does not know of yours, is like sharing a heavy load.

What seems like a problem can become a small reminder of God-in-Christ’s act at Easter. Your personal ills will seem less sad. Existence is, and always must be, co-existence.

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 …

Great and Small Wonders

 
Can you discern the true seat of your soul?
Or say of what your true self is composed?
Give reason for your life? or know the way
In which the essence that is you arose?
Though close confined in flesh and bones, your eyes
Observe the turning world and endless skies.

Enclosed, your soul in seeming prison lies,
Restrained by flesh, particular, within
God’s infinite, eternal universe.
Our boundaries (self stops where else begins)

Show only what our senses will let pass.
Until you know what links your soul to sense
Make no decision as to here or hence.

A boy catches the Sun in a burning-glass. Its image dazzles his eyes blackening a paper sheet; smoke wisps curl, a tiny spot takes fire. A burning glass of photons, tiny portions of the Sun’s heat, so many they dazzle his eyes and light the paper. There are more photons in a burning-glassful of Sun than there are glassfuls of Sun’s rays shining on Earth.

At night; the boy lies in bed gazing out at the sky. Photons, filtered by the clouds, the atmosphere, his window and his eyes, focus in his eyes. He sees small wonders.

He is a marvellous harmony with the photons. Each photon is a harmonic of the whole cosmos and deep calls unto deep. The clouds break. He sees stars, planets, galaxies, the Milky Way. Photons are distorted, focussed and refocused by the gravitational pull of stars, galaxies and galactic clusters, by dark and light matter and the Cosmos itself.

Like a violin string producing harmonics and sub-harmonics, the music of the Cosmos is filled with waveforms and sub-forms. We call them fundamental particles but particles are just our name for the focal points of these very faint, weak waveforms. Although weak, the extent of each wave is as vast as the Cosmos itself. A photon is a fundamental harmonic, one of the smallest notes in the cosmic harmony. The Cosmos is a waveform with many interplaying themes. The burning-glass and the boy are unique and special themes; symphonies on the cosmic scale. It does not matter how many or complex the harmonies may be.

The boy, the burning-glass, the Sun and the farthest star, his body and brain, every cell, sinew and neuron, are part of that harmony. The workings of the mind, emotions, logic, faith, hope, love, may all be explained by analysis of the brain. Not because the brain is all there is but because it is a network of harmonies played on the greatest scale imaginable. Some say that the Cosmos can be examined solely on its own terms; others that it is a wonderful dream in the mind of God. Both may be right. Half a picture may seem complete in itself but it is still half the picture.

Lying on his bed the boy breathes deeply; fascinated by the stars. He listens to his breath. There are more atoms in a lungful of air than there are lungfuls of air in the atmosphere. Every breath since men walked on Earth disperses throughout the atmosphere. Any later breath will include some atoms from it: the dying words of Julius Caesar, the Beatitudes and Hitler’s wartime speeches; the breath of kings and commons, saints and sinners, old, young, hale and dying.

Plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They fix nitrogen and other elements necessary to life. The same distribution goes on in soil and growing things as his breath in the atmosphere.

He takes part of every living thing and person from the beginning of life on Earth with every breath and every mouthful. He is involved in mankind from his birth and in every moment of living.

Earth is older than men. The boy lives in the presence of immense antiquity. No breath of his, of kings or commons, Moses, Abraham or Mahomet went into the Earth’s making. Men have raised up its stone at their most sacred sites, worked it, used it and admired it. But they are not part of it. It is part of them. The constituents of the boy’s body, like those of the Earth, were not formed on Earth but in stars and supernovae at remote times and distances. We are made of the ashes of dead stars.

A picture may seem complete and yet be part of a greater one. Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are men so passionate about the way the world is if it means nothing? Should we listen to those who quote Macbeth: Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing? Or to a still, small voice that tells us: ‘All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made that was made.’?

‘Before Abraham was, I AM.’

So Loved

And God So Loved the World

I AM
the Other of you,
Your Father.

I made the first waking breath,
the infinite-finite moment,
the first pulse of love,
the flickering of desire;

Other than here and now,
Other than where and when,
the first breath, in the first waves
of growing light at dawn.

Other,
fission,
and the world was born:
waters and waves of light,

Other,
you, another,
others.
Loving eyes,
light, sound, colour, cries;
the infinite-finite moment.
Loving eyes, searching:
eyes lost in love.

Oh, how I loved you,
love you.

And God called the light day,
and the darkness he called night,
and the heavens and the earth
are darkness and light,
here and there,
day and night,
and it was good;
and God so loved the world.

For God so loved the world
that he gave,
he came,
he shared,
and died,
as his own son.

that whoever should believe in him,

who came, shared and died;
sent from whatever dimensions into these three,
into its tiny inner darkness,
no bigger than this universe,
this hazelnut universe,
this mere infinity of three dimensions,
than which there is so much more;

should have eternal life.

For the turning of the wheels of space and time
are no more than the smooth rolling shell of the hazel.

And can he love his lost ones,
lost within the hazel shell?
And if it roll so tinily in his hand,
did he yet enter it?
And are we held in time?
And was he here,
in the bright day
in the kernel’s heart?

‘Love those who hate, bless those who curse, do good to those who spite.’

We must love the lost
who cannot escape,
the captives in that outer darkness
no bigger than a hazel shell:
those who did not believe,
cannot believe,
will not believe
in Him.

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
fallen away in the darkness.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
fallen away from the one true Person.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
you we brand as demons, lost and unloving,
and grant you his peace

All the Time in the World

Linespace

Concerning time we tend to ask,
(though feeling slightly foolish)
‘If time began with the Big Bang,
what happened before then?’
before when there was no before,
when there was not a when,

a question in a circle,
a circle in a round
when never was was never found
nor ever was again.

We are growing old together,
we two, the world and I.
and we often talk together
as I lie in the heather
and think of wind and weather
and what it is to die.

‘If time began with the Big Bang,
there must be something other.’

We both were born so very young,
we two, the world and I,
when time was nothing to be found,
except we heard a bugle sound
to live or die.

In these purple heather flowers
the minutes turn to hours
and the passing of the clouds
is passing time.

Concerning space we tend to ask
(though feeling slightly foolish)
‘If space began with the Big Bang,
with what beyond did it compare?
beyond where there is no beyond,
where there is not a where?

a question in a circle,
a circle in a round
where nothing there is ever found
nor ever will be there.

We are growing old together,
we two, the world and I.
and we often talk together
as I lie in the heather
and think of wind and weather
and what it is to die.

‘If space began with the Big Bang,
there must be something other.’

We both were born so very small,
we two, the world and I,
when there was nothing else at all,
except we heard a bugle call
to live or die.

In these purple heather flowers
the sky and space are ours
and the passing of the clouds
is far away.

Spacetime began with the Big Bang,
with no before or any where.
There must be something other.
Other than the world and I,
Other than the clouds and sky,
Other than the words we choose,
Other than the facts we use,
Other in the most extreme,
Other than all other.

Could that Other that is other
than this universe be nothing?
No time? No space? No thing?
A song we cannot sing?

We cannot think of nothing,
but we think of nothing less,
a void, an emptiness.
An emptiness in what?
So we look for something else,
for something Other.

We lie here in the heather,
we two, the world and I.
and we talk again together
and think of wind and weather
and what it is to die.

In the heather banks of spacetime,
in the flower bells of space,
tiny quanta flicker and tiny quanta chase,
ghosts of Might and Might Not,
ethereal as lace.

We two, the world and I, are lost in idle chatter.
Matter in our cosmos has mirrored anti-matter.
Is the Other anti-universe?
The Other in the Looking Glass,
converse of our own converse?
Has it mind? And does it matter?

Matter and anti-matter
annihilate each other,
What would become of spacetime?
No more us and no more Other?
No-thing, no where, no when,
questions in a circle, circles in a round,
where never was was never found,
nor ever was again.

We lie here in the heather,
we two, the world and I,
and we talk again together
and ponder altogether
just what it is to die.

We cannot think of nothing,
but we think of nothing less,
we look in an abyss, into an emptiness.
Asking emptiness in what?
always wanting something else,
something Other.

We two, the world and I,
have much to take and give.
We two were born a single kind
The world is home for humankind.
It is our home, we are its mind
we much search and we must find
just what it is to live.

We’re conscious here, why not the Other?
Years of searching, years of dreams,
for others here found nothing more.
Are we rarer than it seems?
Are we alone?

Mitochondrial DNA
has one root through all the Earth.
Cells of mosses and of trees,
spiders, antelopes and fleas,
the lion and the lamb, all these,
the fossil and the newborn babe
are each other’s families.

Only once was life’s seed sown,
in this dear Earth we call our own.
Once in this land and all its seas,
once in four-plus billion years,
with so slim chance are we alone?

We two, the world and I,
have much to give and take.
we lie and talk together
and still we wonder whether
If conscious mind is scarce to find,
what chance is there in Other?
Does it know? Is it awake?

Here the chance of consciousness
is cut by the click and chime,
of fourteen billion years or less,
but Other has all time.

Infinite is far without end.
Eternal, an ageless when.
If far is as far as the dice are cast,
and an age is as long as spacetime lasts,
and when all time and space is past,
the Other is beyond then.

More than ‘eternal’ and ‘infinite’,
Unbound by time and space
pervading here and now,
in every time and place,
distance, seconds, years, alike,
our world is a treasured seed
Other has all the room in the world,
Other has all the time it needs
to nurture and to weed.

We lie here in the heather,
we two, the world and I.
and we talk again together
and think of wind and weather
and what it is to die.
And the sheep go grazing yonder,
while the world and I still ponder
how the bush that flamed with wonder
could speak in tones of thunder,

‘I AM what I AM.’

Where Have all the Little Green Men Gone?

When I was a boy it seemed certain that somewhere ‘out there’ were other worlds like Earth – strange and wonderful plants, birds and animals and civilisations, good and bad like our own. People wrote stories, mathematicians calculated the chances. The universe was vast and becoming vaster. At home our old encyclopaedia knew nothing of other galaxies beyond our own Milky Way, yet ‘out there’ is now known to be filled with others. Science fiction writers had to invent hyperspace travel and warp speed, stargates and wormholes in space to cover the limitations of distance and speed of light.

And yet…

Even as the twenty-first century approached, when Dan Dare and Jeff Hawke had grown into Captain Kirk, Luke Skywalker and E.T. there were hairline cracks. I remember an article listing the factors which led to the development of life here, concluding that there would probably be at least a hundred thousand intelligent civilisations like our own. I noticed that among the factors the writer had not included was the influence of the Moon. We are almost a twin planet with a satellite so large it produces powerful tides that have driven adaptation and evolution in the tidal zone so critical as life moved from sea to land.

I wondered how many planets in the life zone of other stars had a similar large companion; one in fifty or less did not seem unreasonable, That would reduce the number of other civilisations to two thousand. Three more such missed factors would mean we were probably alone. A bleak prospect.

Since then work by scientists such as Nick Lane, evolutionary biochemist of University College London, on the origins of nucleated, cellular life which found that the common basic structure of mitochondrial DNA points to a single, one-off event in the origin of all cellular life: plants, insects, us, everything in the four and a half billion years this planet has existed (Google Nick Lane ‘The Vital Question’). Derek Bickerton, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, University of Hawaii has found strong evidence of a similar one-off development in language and spare brain capacity. In ‘More than Nature Needs’ he investigates why, in the billions of years since complex creatures evolved on Earth, we are the only species that can study the universe in which we have evolved.

It is noticeable that more recent science fiction, such as Gravity and The Martian, is of human endeavour fighting the perils ‘out there’.
Are we alone? If so is that a bleak prospect?

Genesis

You can talk of the Day of the Jackal.
You can talk of the Day of the Dead.
In Cromwell’s day, so it is said,
the days were black and the days ran red.

But the days that are as a thousand years,
and the thousand years as a day,
belong to Him who made the world
in six, plus one for play.

I have long wondered at the scientific accuracy of the biblical seven days as described in the first chapter of Genesis and the beginning of the second, and how few Christians think it has any accuracy at all, usually describing it as ‘truth dressed in story’. Its accuracy is particularly remarkable as it bears all the hallmarks of an oral tradition which predated writing. Even in the bronze age when it probably first found written form there was little scientific basis to draw on.

As in the poem above, biblical folk used day in the same varied way that we do. Peter, quoted in the second verse, gave an inspired explanation of this (2 Peter 3:8). I have interleaved the complementary biblical and scientific accounts below (or see children’s version, September 2016).

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and void,
Space-time traces back to a chaotic void, in which possibilities, eventualites, shimmer in and out of being.
darkness covered the deep
an unstable, pregnant darkness.
and the spirit brooded over the waters.
The initial conditions had to be just right, in perfect balance…
God said, ‘Let there be light.’
… for electromagnetic waveforms to survive.
He separated the light from the darkness
Those first waves separated, producing others in the primaeval void.
***
God said, ‘Let there be an expanse…to separate waters from waters
The new waveforms burst in a vast expansion…
God called the expanse ‘sky’
… and space was created.
***
God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be drawn together…
Waveforms condensed to particles, protons, neutrons, electrons…
… and let dry ground appear.’
… atoms condensed out of this ‘soup’ of particles, …
God called the dry ground land, … the waters he called seas.
… mass and gravity brought them together. Solids and liquids formed and eventually the Earth with its amazing landforms and sea-scapes.
Then God said, ‘let the land produce vegetation…
Primitive vegetal life began, probably in hot inland springs, and travelled to the seas.
***
God said, ‘Let there be lights in the sky to separate day from night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons, days and years…
The tidal forces of the sun and moon and stars drive and mark the seasons, days and years, which in turn drive evolution.
***
God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures…
Animal life, primitive at first, formed in the oceans…
… and let birds fly above the earth and across the expanse of the sky…
… then spread to land. Many early forms perished, including the dinosaurs, of which birds are probably the only descendants.
***
God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals each according to its kind…
After the great Permian extinction mammals proliferated and became the predominant large creatures on land…
God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness…
…of which man, the latecomer, came with the ability to wonder at creation and to love it…
… and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over livestock over all the earth and the creatures that move on the ground.
… and with the immense responsibility this brought.
***
... on the seventh day God rested from all his labour…
… like the first it lasted less than a millisecond.

Then the real work began.

The events and order in this early creation account match modern science almost too accurately. Then there is the coincidence of waters and waves and the apparently contradictary concept of a formless or chaotic void, translations of the original which quantum physics now supports. Those with a statistical bent may work out the odds. But whether we can, whether we want or need to, we can still be amazed. We should still wonder.