The Words We Use

This is something of a ramble through my etymology hobby.

Eternal is from ancient Greek, aeon-ternus, meaning age-lasting. We often use eternal as meaning no more than this, going on for ages, or as long as the universe lasts, but things have changed.

The discovery of the Big Bang in which the cosmos came into being at a finite time in the past, brings the need for a much wider definition as it implies the existence of something other than space-time for which we have no words. This is nothing new; a wider definition has been necessary for some millenia since the earliest descriptions of a being outside, other than time and space, but also from the invention of an obscure, ancient, grammatical concept.

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

But the aorist tense needs no companions – wherever it is, it is always tense. When God says, ‘I AM.’ it is a single, defining statement. The original is in the aorist tense, implies ‘I was, I am, I have always been and always will be.’ Or if you prefer, ‘I ETERNALLY AM’

This is far more than simply lasting forever; it is something other. It is more than time or space. It may give birth to time and space, but, Oh! Man! it is something else.

The Aorist does not walk into a bar, its spirit is suspended eternally in the optics.

So here is the problem. In an earlier post I wrote about something and nothing and came to the conclusion that we have no true word for nothing because nothing cannot exist. We see this in vacuum physics where it has been found that there is no such thing as the popular idea of a vacuum. Instead the more vacuous the space the more it teems with virtual particles or eddies popping in and out of existence, reacting and responding to each other. The word virtual, unlike its use in ‘virtual reality’ stems from vir, an Old Latin word for potency or Man.

To avoid confusion ‘Man’ above has  a capital letter to identify it as a species word rather than gender. The male of the species Man is homo-man in which homo is Old Latin for humus or earth , not the Old Greek for self.

World comes from the Anglo-Saxon wer-alt meaning the age of a man. we still use wer today to mean man in werewolf (man-wolf).

There is no word for this full meaning of eternal. Eternal simply means ‘lifelong’, but we seek for more, even if life is taken as the life of the universe it takes no account of that Other, the Allos, outwith space-time.

Universe is from unusversus ‘one turned’. It is tempting to think of this in terms of the universe seen as the turning stars, but it means turned into one in the sense, all there is, seen as one. And can we become one with that other One?

Cosmos comes from the Old Greek word for order. The reason I have not posted anything for so long is that for my wife and I the past year has been anything but cosmic. We have had a tough year. My posts will probably be monthly for a while.


Linear & Local Systems

Two weeks ago I posted a poem Uncertain Determinism. Determinism is the universe according to Isaac Newton, where strict determinist rule governs every action, interaction and reaction. This fixes the future of the universe irrevocably in an inescapable sequence of ‘This causes that, so what happens next is inevitable’, a so-called linear future in which the falling apple meets the ground every time.

Fortunately physicists such as Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck and many others have given us the escape route of uncertainty. The world behaves as though it is a series of linear interactions like a game of snooker, but at its heart it is like the fall of the cards in poker. The problem is, how does the random behaviour at the world’s heart create a world in which dependable things can happen? How can the apple fall and hit the ground and still allow chance and freewill?

The ball roll on the table
follows rules of moon and sun
which rise today, tomorrow,
as they have always done,
as past connects to future,
and to present, and are one.

This is called a linear system,
like the turning of a planet,
like a bullet, or a prism,
the passage of a photon,
the turning cosmic rhythm.

Yet this certain path is found
in local interaction
in spun, uncertain motion:
of each particle and atom
in the chalky cue’s rebound.
Local gravity, vibration,
make the universal sound
of uncertain random chaos,
smoke, not mirrors, all around.

With so many random roads
how does it take the chosen one?
why doesn’t it explode
as a blazing, shining sun?

The answer is the tiny
uncertain chance and sway
of every sub-atomic spin and swirl.
The congregated sum
of a trillion minute sums
has a bias that produces
a solid rolling ball,
and here it comes!


Creative Collapse

There is trust and there is hope
in the pushing of a cue,
but its moment and position
and even its direction,
are certainly uncertain;
will it miss or is it true?

So mass will gain momentum
in the rolling snooker ball
from the players practiced prodding,
which will send it like a rocket
into the corner pocket
if uncertain quantum chances
are outweighed as it advances
by a strong determination
and combined co-operation
of the sine-curves in the haze
of its line across the baize,
like the odds that have been spinning,
in a gambler’s mind so able
where at the the corner table,
while the rolling snooker ball
is heading for its fall,
he is smugly, quietly grinning
at a hand that’s stacked for winning.

But the spinning, whirling chances
of the eddies in the stream
are subject to the entropy
that eats the gambler’s dream.
And the ball may well be found
in the pocket, but the sound
of the other players cheers
and the clink of many beers
may not echo here at all
in the disappointing fall
of the other players cards,
and his chance to win the pot
may be well and truly shot.

Uncertain Determinism

A quark within a particle
of the nucleus of an atom
in a molecule of substance
of a rolling snooker ball
is neither here nor there
and not directional.

So are they all.

They dance in random orbits
where the chance that each is where
their fellows in the prodding
of the chalky, pushy cue
are in line with its pointing
is no more than a smattering
twixt the lucky streak continuing
at the table in the corner
and the quite unlikely sound
of another player saying,
‘I’m buying the next round.’


Cosmos once meant order –
universe meant a single turning point.
We were bounded by the spheres,
the eternal turning stars,
where wanderers made their way alone,
bright Venus, dull red Mars,
and others that we named for gods.
– Cosmos once meant order.

Now we have found infinity,
like turmoil of a dream
of love and hope and yearning.
tossed in an unknown stream,
Galaxies, stars, planets, dust,
spread with wilder turning,
dark energy’s pull,
dark matter’s thrust,

Now in our infinity
all we see is just
a hundredth part or more
of a far darker shore.
Are we cast there alone,
faithless, hopeless, loveless, lost?

This vast turning sphere,
dark energy, dark matter and dark fear,
is smaller than a hazel in my hand.
A multiverse infinity of worlds
would be as hazel-small and sweet
as this round which my fingers curl.

And I so loved it that I entered
as My own Son to bring you life;
became your brother, servant, friend.
I, you thought so other,
so high above, so Godly-grand,
loved so much I died
at my lovers’ hand.

There is truth and turmoil in your dream,
the unseen dark, a flowing stream,
of love and loss.
Matter is energy, dark and light.
Those who love the light,
who believe in Me,
flow on to light.
Those who love the dark flow into dark,
lost in the passing of this age.
Yet I did not only come to earth to save,
I descended into hell,
and seek you there as well.

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.

Eddies in the Stream

When rain clouds rise from oceans
like sea-waves in the sky
from sea to land and onward,
to hills and mountains upward,
to pour down from up high.

Where storm-rains lash the heather
to soak in moss and peat,
where dark deer-runnels ooze and drain
and ocean’s loss is nature’s gain,
for streamlets swell to run again
to rivers pure and sweet.

Where alders dip above the run
and boulders break the stream,
and eddies, whirling as they go,
dance with each other in the flow
like dancers in a dream.

They turn and fill and ebb and flow –
and catch the eye so well –
small points of action in the stream,
the focus of the swell
as though the river’s swelling run
is focussed in their spin and turn
and river, sea and rain are one;
a cosmic carousel.

We spin in busy circles,
swirled in life’s foray
while the great stream flows forever
to an ocean that is ever
beyond this little day
where the depth and breadth and wonder
of this turning cosmic reel
is just a little bay
in which the eddies play.

Two weeks ago I suggested that you watch two interesting ‘You Tube’ illustrations of eddies and harmonics:

‘Physics Girl’ Dianna Cowern here, and James Dann here.

If physics girl held her plate in a running stream instead of a still pool the eddies would be relatively still while the stream runs powerfully on.

If you watch James Dann’s setup closely you can see flickering waves within the ones he shows. Later, when he shows the first harmonic, at the wave’s highest and lowest points, top and bottom, there are nodes in the string outline which are not part of the demonstration. You can capture them, as well as the flickering internal nodes and harmonics, by pressing pause at various points. They can be seen as wobbles in the slow motion capture by the high-speed camera. They happen because the  string is never fully at rest before the demonstration starts. Dann moves from one example to the next without letting it fully settle down, but even if he did there would still be a fine wave background due to circumstances outside his control, an in-built uncertainty.

We are used to the idea that energy and matter are compatible and can be transformed, one into the other (E = mc2). Matter has been described as the collapsed waveform or point of action of waves of energy – the ‘hit’ where energy makes its impact. It forms interactive, bound clusters of these points of action which we call particles, atoms, molecules, compounds, chairs, tables, you.

Another word for the particles of which all things are built is nodes, from the latin for knot. It is as though energy is a vibrating violin string whose action, such as playing the note C, is marked by a point at which it is held at the bridge or the violinist’s finger.

These slower, harmonic notes point to a strange possibility. Nodes have little of the energy of the string, they are points of relative inaction. If we think of particles of matter as harmonic nodes in the total cosmic energy, then they are not points of action or collapsed waveforms, they are foci or regions of relative steadiness, eddies in the stream as the stream runs powerfully on. They swirl dramatically, like points of active energy in a stream’s flow, but the stream’s energy is far greater though less visible than its eddies. It is more like the dark energy unexpectedly accelerating cosmic expansion. Seen this way particles are not points of action or building blocks, they are eddies in this expanding cosmic ball; harmonics in the cosmic wave-function.

And is this universe what Dame Julian saw in a vision? something as small as a hazelnut in the hand of God, our Father and Source of all creative energy?