Gravity & emotions (and the price of fish)

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Cigarettes, whisky and wild wild women.  And what has that got to do with the price of fish.  (I searched the internet for "the price of fish" and found a bizarre site that amused me: http://www.krayup.com/fish/index.html : unfortunately this page no longer exists)  Well it might not surprise you to know that I could expound the profound connections and cultural ones, between the two.  The price of fish is too low.  When you consider the life threatening environment that the North Sea fishermen endure to catch the fish that ends up in the fish & chip shops, one is left bewildered that the price is so low.  In terms of money that is - in terms of life, it’s very expensive.  Having endured such hardships in the North Sea it would be naive to expect these hardened fishermen to come home, go to church, read poetry, pick flowers and to gently indulge in the appreciation of the subtle beauty of creation.  Much more likely, they will hit the town, get drunk, smoke a lot and indulge wild women.  That’s not to say that many don’t do both.  But cigarettes, whiskey and wild women seems little compensation for the hardships endured in catching fish.  But enough of this - I sometimes think that the purpose of our existence (or experience of existence) is to unify the fractured and discordant universe in which we find ourselves.

Albert Einstein and his space-time continuum.  They made a film on the back of Steven Hawking’s book “A brief history of time” [check it out at Amazon].  In it is a tremendous analogy of the warped space-time and its relationship to what we experience as gravity.  A large rubber sheet with heavy balls on it. (this is science, not the wild women bit)  The balls representing planets and as they sit on the sheet they create pits in the rubber.  Now send a small snooker ball (as opposed to a billiard ball which I don’t know how to spell) across the sheet.  Its trajectory is affected by the undulations in the rubber.  If its going fast enough and far enough away from a planet, its trajectory is slightly altered as it passes the planet.  If it is closer it may end up spiralling around the planet and eventually fall in until it rests against the planet.  The point is that gravity is not particles or even a force field, it is the shape of the space-time continuum.  This we see in the behaviour of objects in space.  However, this warping/shaping of space-time is not digital, it does not stop at some small scale, it is analogue and exists at all scales.  So way down where sub atomic particles seem to become ethereal things that seem to have effects rather than existence, the space-time continuum has shape.  And this, I suspect, goes on ad infinitum.  So here we are in our relative position looking out to the macrocosm and in to the microcosm.  What we react to, where we get out experience is from the interaction of all this “mater”.  Living systems are hugely complex systems of atoms and molecules.  Their interactive behaviour all being based on the warped space-time that they are.  So for a moment imagine a planet floating in space.  The zone around this planet is, like the rubber sheet, stretched.  Space-time is denser closer to the planet.  This effect is the consequence of the huge density of the atoms in the planet.  On the one hand it seems as if there is a thing (the planet) causing this warping of the space-time.  But what exactly is this planet thing.  When we look at matter we find that it is made up of lots of particles all zooming about.  Strangely we realise that the spaces between atoms are huge relative to the size of the atoms.  They are like planets in space.  Tiny little things in a massive void.  So this solid thing, the planet, is not so solid.  It is mostly space, or space-time.  Take this idea down another level in a fractal kind of way and we would find that what we thought were “things”, the atoms, were probably structures of “things” in a vast space-time void.  My hypothesis is that all phenomena are the consequence of the infinitesimal shape of the space-time continuum - or gravity.  Like eddy currents or vortices in water, there are no “things” just shapes in the happenings of water.  Energy in a medium.  Flow.

Let us suppose that this is the case.  Now I am wondering about our experience of this existence.  As humans we interact with the physical world.  When I see a tree, something is happening in me as a consequence of the electromagnetic waves that pass into my eyes that have been affected by the presents of the tree.  Whatever it is that is going on in me I get an idea that I can see the tree.  That is, I know the tree out there.  There’s no room for the tree in here.  But my awareness, my experience, my belief, is that of a tree in the universe.  This relativistic experience of an external reality could take me down a long path of wondering what is going on.  You see, the light that I detect took time to reach me.  So I only know the history of the tree.  I can never know the “now” of the tree.  But even that is presupposing a paradigm of time.  In an analogous way I imagine that the light hit the tree, and if I imagine it in slow motion, the light starts its long journey away from the tree and some long time later my optical receptors detect a bit of light, by which time the tree could be doing something else.  But - according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, the experience of the light itself (travelling at the speed of light) is that no time passed.  It was instantly bouncing off the tree and in my eye.  I am side-tracking slightly; the point is that the way I experience my environment is as difficult and strange as the discussion of what matter is.  The effects that I respond to are inherently part of this warped space-time continuum.  The interaction of all these things is like the snooker ball sailing across the rubber sheet.  Standing away from the sheet we see that the ball alters direction.  The ball, on the other hand, being in the warped environment, travelled in a straight line, from its own perspective. (That would take some looking into - but I hope you get the rough idea.)

Now for the big problem for me.  What the material world really is - and how we "know" it - are the behaviour and interaction of the warped space-time continuum.  What about the psyche.  What about the emotional experience that we have.  We have spent hundreds of years using our advanced intellectual capacity to make descriptions of the world around us in an attempt to understand it.  Most of the time we are unaware that the truth and significance of what we discover intellectually is guided by out emotional response.  Things feel right.  We have huge feelings and we employ a subtle edge of that feeling to our intellectual activities.  Understanding something is feeling that the thoughts about it are in harmony with the experience of it.  But where does all this feeling fit in the great scheme of things.  What about good and evil?  What about the huge history of Greek and Roman mythology, and the Egyptians, the Jews, Buddha, fairy tales, child abuse, manipulation, violence, war, oppression, repression, control and self discipline, what are all the emotional, psychological, spiritual things in life.  The bits where we genuinely experience life, the stuff we live.  The bits that science starts off by leaving out.  I suspect that the spiritual, the emotions, the psyche are real.  They are as real as the atoms you stand on.  Just as the interface between you as a huge and complex arrangement of warped space-time “touch” mother earth and detect it and experience that it is real, so the emotional content of our life is the manifestation of this complex warped space-time continuum.  It is the interaction of these complex systems; it is a manifestation of the reality that we are.

I once expounded a theory that this material existence, this temporal experience, is in fact a symbolic representation of the spiritual reality (more on that).  It kind of swaps spiritual and temporal for a moment.  The ethereal thing is the physical world and the reality, the substance, is the spiritual.  Many years later the reality of that notion hit me.  It was a fearful moment to realise that the table I was touching was God.  This is it.  This is.  Everything I do is real.  The concepts of sin, good and evil are suspicions of the reality.  As a Christian, and a Roman Catholic at that, I was brought up with some pretty weird ideas about sin and forgiveness.  About repentance, purgatory, heaven and hell, and ideas of venial and mortal sins.  Analogies like the soul is pure white (except for original sin) and venial sins are like blotches of black stain on it.  Venial sins, however, can be “washed” off.  You can put venial sins right again, rub them out.  Mortal sins, on the other hand, well, that’s a different matter.  Mortal sins are like indelible ink.  You can wash them a bit and get rid of some of it.  You can “fade” the stain made by mortal sins, but, sorry, you can’t get rid of them.  That is only possible in purgatory.  So you will have to suffer some when you die before you can experience the true beauty and purity of God in heaven.  But that’s not it.  That’s the attempt to analogise in concrete terms what one suspects from the information available.  I don’t get all these concepts from what little is preserved or reported of Christ’s life.  These ideas are constructs to try to explain the dynamics of reality.  I don’t know where Christ suggested that children should be intimidated at school, belittled, ridiculed, embarrassed, terrorised by giant adults into “understanding” (that which the adults evidently don’t) and being good.  There is a huge error in the notion that we (adults) have to teach children about good and bad.  We have to guide (euphemism for control) children in how to behave (for their own good - of course).  My recollection of Christ’s view on this was that the apostles should let the children through to him.  Children should be listened to.  Whatever you do to the least of these children you do to God.  And since when were the nuns at my primary school supposed to intimidate, threaten, and physically abuse God?  But - for me - the magnificence of the Roman Catholic Church is that through thousands of years of history, and through little conscious intent on the part of the members and activists in the church, it carries a profound message through history.  A message of support for freedom.  A message of hope and love.  How it does it is a mystery to me.  But much of my belief in the benign universe, my hope in the beauty of life, my profound love for people and the world, is protected by the underlying theology of the Roman Catholic church.  It might be oppressive at times (and that is the people in it) but I would rather the freedom it maintains than the oppressive rule of a political ideological dictatorship. (I know it’s managed a bit of that in its time too.)  But I am side-tracking hugely.

The point is that all this stuff that we experience is the interplay of gravity.  The eddies and the whirlpools in space-time.  In order to see straight we need clear water.  We don’t get it.  But raised consciousness is a realisation of the dynamics through which we experience life.  It’s like looking at your leg in the bath.  The water changes the direction of the light and the ripples make your leg look wobbly (or differently wobbly from what it is).  If you take a photograph and look at the shapes of the lines you see how much the water ripples affect the visual appearance of the leg.  If you see a mark on your leg and move your hand towards it under the water, your accumulated experience automatically compensates for the alterations and you largely perceive your leg and the mark for what they more accurately are.  Our emotional interactions with other people are somewhat like this.  The issues with concepts such as sin are the effect that we have on others experience and environment.  To cause ripples in the near vicinity of someone else alters their view or experience.  Small ripples are easily compensated for.  But when deliberate waves are created in order to alter others perception for our own purposes then this is disruptive and analogous to small sins.  These waves can be dealt with and even put right such that the others perception comes back to a better clarity.  But chopping someone’s leg off, or seriously damaging them emotionally or murdering there loved one has such a huge effect that it cannot be undone.  Their environment is permanently altered.  All sorts of things can be done to reduce the aberrations in their perception but complete restoration is almost impossible.  Murdering people causes such huge waves that echo through history.  As we see, wars don’t end.  The killing stops for a while.  But the pain, the despair, the inaccurate perception of reality is passed on from generation to generation.  What we can’t deal with is passed on.  That’s why we are born with original sin.  We are born into a turbulent environment.  We can’t see straight.  And love provides the greatest calming of the waters.  And children brought up in calmer waters have a clearer view and are stronger and more able to propagate truth and harmony.  Too often the more we try to make them “right” we are only projecting our warped perception, our disturbances into their environment.  We are trying to get them to deal with our difficulties, with our inaccurate perception of reality.  Trust in God.  Trust in the purpose of the universe.  Trust that a human being born into this world is a human being as human beings are supposed to be for whatever purpose.  That is teaching.  That is guiding.  Do we adults really think that we’ve got it so right we can “correct” these new-borns so that they can get it right in a way that they wouldn’t manage themselves?  Bottom line: I think the psyche and our emotional experience is the complex shape and dynamics of space-time.  Emotions are gravity.

On the subject of the warped space-time continuum and gravity there is a man called Phil (or Terri, ‘cos that was on his email) Mayhew who is a ceramic potter and he tells me he spends his days shaping clay around space.  He has written a piece called “The Cosmic Commode” sub-titled “A proposed resolution of general relativity theory and an alternative to the big bang model of cosmological creation.”   It is quite remarkable and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough without sounding insincere.  Do take a look.

© Nik Allday 2000