Saturday, January 21, 2012

Perhaps You've Heard this Before...

Prepare to be totally bummed out. Last week a friend of mine, who is currently in law school, wrote of the fear he felt but was unable to acknowledge when, as a child, he contemplated the vastness of the universe.

Fear inspired by the limitless cosmos must be common among children, since I recall experiencing it myself and I have reason to believe others have as well. And I don’t believe it’s confined to children.

Recently I watched a series on PBS which explained our current understanding of both subatomic particles and the extent of the universe. One point the program made was that we may well inhabit one little universe among a collective multiverse whose dimensions and numbers are immeasurable and uncountable. And somewhere in this endless collection of universes, there may be one identical to our own, inhabited by people just like us.

The prospect that we may have cosmic doppelgangers living their lives in a neighboring universe exactly as we do is a consequence of the possibility that the cosmos in its entirety is limitless and time is endless. Everything we will do today has been done before by our exact replica in some twin realm somewhere in the infinite everywhere.

Go ahead and pretend that I didn’t just blow your mind.

As Nietzsche once wrote, “Everything becomes and recurs eternally - escape is impossible!”

If escape were possible, where would we escape to? Somewhere with indoor plumbing and decent Chinese food, I would hope, but there are no guarantees. It would be interesting to know exactly what wormhole leads to the twin cosmos where I could enjoy a life identical to the one I now live, except, perhaps, with no mention of any Kardashians ever.

The thought that existence comprises multitudinous universes extending ad infinitum through time and space makes our infinitesimally tiny selves and accomplishments seem utterly inconsequential. Damn.

As scary as the infinity of time and space can be, the idea that they are limited is equally scary. If time is destined to end, then what? Well, nothing, but how does that work? A related question is this, If time is endless, what is preferable, the prospect of death or the prospect of living forever?

OK, you may now thinking that worse than either of these is the prospect of my going on forever with these speculations, so I will bring them to a halt here. In doing so, and in line with my general policy of “Don’t worry, be happy,” I’d like to offer a couple of pictures representing Rollins’ celebration of Chinese New Year, which begins officially on Monday.

Who Better to Bring in the Year of the Dragon than Our Own Hongjin and Zhao Chang

Chinese Food - A Hit in Any Universe

Chi Fan, Sun Laoshi!