Raising the Veil of Reality

I wish people like Carlo Rovelli didn’t try to explain physics in seven brief lessons, because prior to this book spontaneously appearing on my doorstep, I had it all figured out. That’s right. I had my own indisputable theories, for example, the concept of gravity and time fit perfectly into the reality of my boobs and ass. I blame Krista Tippett who loves to interview these outliers. It was on a drive up to the lake that my self-serving theorems were ruthlessly shattered, apparently, “planets circle around the sun, and things fall (insert sag), because space curves,” much like the road I am traveling. Thank God because I was beginning to think it had more to do with an excessive consumption of sea salt caramel gelato and bacon. Apparently that’s all relative…

“The theory describes a colorful and amazing world where universes explode, space collapses into bottomless holes, time sags and slows near a planet, and the unbounded extensions of interstellar space ripple and sway like the surface of the sea.” Carlo Rovelli 

We have the freedom to make conscious choices, choices that not only define our future, but inform our identity. I concede to a natural inclination to complicate issues, if I could just wrap my mind around the impermanence of all things, maybe I wouldn’t rally so fiercely against my own reality. A reality envisioned through personal interactions, processed, labeled, and classified in the form of memories. I wish the sum total of my current reality was not based on the intricacies of every decision I’ve ever made, because there are a few things I’d like to take back, we could start with Amazon, but I digress. 

“We are also an integral part of the world that we perceive; we are not external observers. We are situated within it. Our view of it is from within its midst. We are made up of the same atoms and the same light signals as are exchanged between pine trees in the mountains and stars in the galaxies.” Carlo Rovelli

The bumble bee is a better example, aerodynamically not designed to fly, but since no one told him, he flies. In other words, “at the minute scale of the grains of space, the dance of nature does not take place to the rhythm of the baton of a single orchestral conductor, at a single tempo; every process dances independently with its neighbors, to its own rhythm.” We’ve been given the freedom to think, to deviate from established norms, and entrenched archetypes. 

“Here on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world. And it’s breathtaking.” Carlo Rovelli

I like to think I have an agile mind, like a ballerina, flexible yet disciplined, but unfortunately rigidity is closer to my core truth. People are not disposable, a big part of how we understand ourselves is in, and through our interactions with each other. Rovelli says (and I don’t believe him), “We are not contained within an invisible, rigid infrastructure, we are immersed in a gigantic, flexible snail shell.” That gives escargot a whole new meaning. See I would much prefer a turtle shell, but let’s not get all caught up in shell preference, because “electrons only exist when someone or something watches them, or better, when they are interacting with something else…When nothing disturbs it, it is not in any precise place. It is not in a ‘place’ at all.” So when I’m sound asleep I don’t exist, my ‘shell’ is empty so to speak, and I suppose all that remains is a slimy trail to evidence my journey. 

“It’s as if God had not designed reality with a line that was heavily scored but just dotted it with a faint outline.” Carlo Rovelli

I consider the fingers currently creating friction on the keyboard, connected to the friction of my thoughts, which I try to form into some sore of meaningful blog. Lucky you. It’s awkward to admit, but essentially I’m as predictable as a rice fly, with a slightly longer life span. I wish God fit neatly into these quantum equations but as you would expect God is illusive. When I consider the concepts of faith, hope, and love I am perplexed by their very manifestation. These values are so deeply embedded in our collective consciousness, it’s as if God devised some sort of divine marketing plan, compressed by time, as valuable as a diamond.

“Our moral values, our emotions, our loves are no less real for being part of nature, for being shared with the animal world, or for being determined by the evolution that our species has undergone over millions of years. Rather, they are more valuable as a result of this; they are real…Our reality is tears and laughter, gratitude and altruism, loyalty and betrayal, the past that haunts us and serenity.” Carlo Rovelli

Maybe with the limited amount of time (best case 100 years, worst case 57 years) I have left in this world I should seek out extraordinary interactions instead of the whimsical, and the mundane. But even that can be ‘hotly’ disputed. It is the perception of the task that makes all the difference even when doing the dishes, folding fitted sheets, dusting tables. My hands interact with the delicate porcelain, the soft cotton, the smooth wood and I am the one who gives these interactions meaning. “Between these images — between what we can reconstruct and understand with our limited means — and the reality of which we are part, there exist countless filters: our ignorance, the limitations of our senses and or our intelligence.” We carry our history around like luggage, never lost in our travels, but rarely unpacked.

“A handful of types of elementary particles, which vibrate and fluctuate constantly between existence and nonexistence and the swarm in space, even when it seems that there is nothing there, combine together to infinity like the letters of a cosmic alphabet to tell the immense history of galaxies; of the innumerable stars; of the sunlight; of mountains, woods, and fields of grain; of the smiling faces of the young at parties; and the night sky studded with stars.” Carlo Rovelli

I wish the issue of space and time wasn’t so complicated. The simple fact that my car keys fall in and out of existence explains a lot. The prophets claim the kingdom of heaven is here, but not fully realized, perhaps they were on to something. Our limited perception might be the key to all of this. There is much we do not know, and can not see, but like the atom we acknowledge it’s existence. I guess that is the best definition of faith I can fathom. Rovelli says, “As if by magic; as if a friend were whispering into my ear an extraordinary hidden truth, suddenly raising the veil of reality to disclose a simpler, deeper order.” By the end of the book I decided the visible stuff is minor compared to that which we can not see, “physics open windows through which we see far in the distance. What we see does not cease to astonish us.”  

Carlo Rovelli is professor of physics at Aix-Marseille University, where he is director of the quantum gravity group in the Center for Theoretical Physics. He is also director of the Samy Maroun Research Center for Time, Space, and the Quantum. His books include Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics By Carlo Rovelli #mustread

Full Interview: Carlo Rovelli and Krista Tippett #mustlisten

I’m Living in the Gap, care to join me for another? #mustfollow


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