The mechanism doesn’t make a sound, its complex matrix of gears smoothly readjusting their own constellation, an impossibly fantastic clock-work where the gears are more like small clocks themselves, and even their teeth reveal the infinite edges of fractals when examined up close.
Look now how a part of this mechanism slowly raises, a large angled finger that unfolds and falls in a smooth arc, crossing off another year on the ledger that represents my lifetime.
An after-thought, unimportant — just to keep the books, amidst a flurry of other more important things being done.
Thirty-eight lines now for thirty-seven gaps between the lines.
I watch it from this beach, the gargantuan robot reforming its limbs into a walk, away from me and into the sunset. When it disappears into the ocean it sprays a final salty sea mist in its wake, celebrating my milestone with a moment of perfect cinematography.
On this shore of reflection there is silence now and I feel the need to write, to write something. Not in the sand, for I want to take my time, and the only thing one writes in the sand is the quick name of lovers: clumsy large spells locked in asymmetric heart-shapes — often in the wrong orientation to be read by their intended targets.
No, I will take my time and write the proper thoughts that, if not worth reading, feel like worth writing.
Nothing is quite exactly in the same place as it was one year ago.
I remember wondering, as a child, if it is possible to put something back in the exact same way it was. A toy, a small pebble, putting it back in the exact same position. Or is there always a slight difference, a micrometer more to the left, a hair’s width down, a slight rotation…?
But then, if there is always this slight difference, wouldn’t you be able to move the thing a very large amount of times and then get lucky to hit the same spot it had, anyway?
More formally put, is the world made of discrete pixels of possibilities or of an infinite continuity of them? The child balances a fork on his finger and wonders if this is the real center or if a nudge more to the left is more ‘centered’, and where this nudging would end, or if it never ends.
The child has grown up now to me, 37 years of age, and I still don’t know the answer to whether or not the world is pixelated, or “quantised” as is the proper scientific word to use. It seems nobody knows for sure, and the current answer seems to be “yes, but”.
Children notice small things more than they notice bigger things. The smallest dust particles in a room floating around, with no predictable motion. They’re so incredibly light-weight that they become impossible to touch without impacting their path. How long has it been since you noticed those little dust particles? How much focus do you need to notice them now?
Try it, it’s quite hard, but they’re still there. Adults take mindfulness courses to be able to see the dust particles in a room.
This is something children notice by themselves, staring into the void while grown-ups mumble something about them being distracted or dreamy.
As an adult you lose this power of observance and clear eye-sight. You may replace it with knowing about things like Brownian motion, and the uncertainty involved in measuring things, but without feeling how these things immediately relate to the dust particles. You didn’t gain all that much real knowledge about these things but you did lose a lot of observance about other things.
I might lose you as a reader, but I want to dip into this grown-up world of science before emerging back into the real world, to see if we can learn anything that we can apply in every day and moment.
Even in very clinical conditions — a sterile room removed of all its atmosphere containing a small rock on a clean white table — there is a deep rabbit-hole to crawl through when considering if things ever stay the same, let alone the question of you being able to put things back in the same place exactly as they were.
A first complication is that everything is moving around, all the time.
Trillions of trillions of molecules in the rock bounce off and into each other at extremely varying rates, the rock a crystalline layered structure of jiggly plateaus with more jiggly parts losing momentum to each other and to the table and to the room, slowly replacing the entire definition of what it is to be a rock with what it is to be a table, to what it is to be a room, to what it is to be anything. A live illustration of Theseus’ ship in constant repair of itself, a concerto of deaths and rebirths happening, all the time, everywhere.
As you get closer to the rock, it exposes itself with a grin as a treacherously alive thing, parts of it very slowly shearing and melting away, downwards, a puddle-to-be that keeps gazing at you while it sinks, while other parts of it evaporate playfully in the air as fairy dust, even creating a sound as they bounce against nearby air molecules who carry on this movement: the sound of the changing rock.
Even if we cool the rock and the room down to absurdly low temperatures so nothing jiggles and everything is quiet and dead, to a point of absolute zero temperature, the various states of the rock’s tiny pieces still twitch around. A little like teenagers dancing offbeat under the stroboscope light that hides their lack of rhythm; a discovery that brought the world of science into new frontiers of unknowing of which it has yet to emerge.
The fact that stuff jiggling and bouncing like this can cause really complex stuff feels kind of easy to grasp, even more so if the jiggling isn’t really like anything we know and a lot more magic-like.
With jiggling things, you can explain pretty much everything that happens around you. You can explain why a bag of chips expands in an airplane, just with stuff that jiggles. The bag of chips expands because the things that jiggle inside the bag of chips, mostly air molecules, hit the bag from the inside, and there’s not enough stuff on the outside of the bag anymore hitting it back, so the inside jiggling things win against the outside things and start pushing the bag outwards. If people tell you formulaic laws of “pressure” and “equilibrium” are involved, it’s often because they don’t understand that pressure is just a way to talk about the amount of jiggling things per volumetric space.
I think it’s important to realise that there aren’t that many fundamental processes in nature, it makes it easier to remember things, and to reason how things work. It’s stuff that jiggles, bounces, and rubs against each other.
If you get even closer to things though, to understand how jiggling things really do their movement — which can be defined by exchanging particles of energy, — the mechanics become erratic and no longer respect rules that you can explain easily to a child visually, with tennis balls, or pieces of rope. Quantum mechanics, the true mechanic of jiggling things that is slowly pervading all of our endeavours in creating new technologies, currently lacks a good child-like explanation. There’s many possible reasons for that, but my bottom-line is that we’re not done, there’s work to do, and creating a theory that can be explained to a child, using a toy in each hand, is a good goal to have in mind.
There’s another element of consideration that complicates matters extremely, when it comes to understanding “everything” about the rock, something you can’t replace easily either, and which is difficult to explain to children.
Basically, the sizes and positions in space of things and the durations and moments in time of things are all connected rather than separate concepts, so that it becomes hard to say what we mean with parts of the rock being anything ‘now’. What it means to be ‘now’ is not definite but relative to you and to anything that you want to lock together with it.
You may not have thought about it, but if you take a picture of a crowd to capture it, different faces in the crowd already belong to a different ‘now’, as the light that bounced off the faces took a different amount of time to reach the camera. Even noses on people’s individual faces are a distinct amount of nanoseconds earlier than their mouths because of this! If you look into a mirror you look at how you were a couple of nanoseconds ago. Yes, you can make mechanisms with reflecting mirrors to make you look minutes in the past this way, however you’d soon hit engineering problems that are hard to overcome — and often, impossible, because of jiggling things.
However weird this is, it is nothing new, and nothing really to do with deep laws of nature, but you can start to appreciate that this kind of thing not only happens to one camera affected by light but to everything that is affected by anything. If you consider then that everything still has to fit together, somehow, that everybody needs to be able to talk about the same things and measure the same things, there follows a child-like observation that causes a deep mechanic in nature to reveal itself.
This deep mechanic in nature is that if there is more stuff around to happen in a certain amount of space and time, it bends the metric that formulates how these different “whens” and “wheres” can be converted into each other, so that both the space and time it takes stuff to happen becomes compressed or decompressed to ‘even out’ everything so all observers share the same conclusions about reality.
You may be familiar with this bending of spacetime due to the mass of the rock as a model for gravity, or the dilation of time when things move very very fast compared to another thing, but have you considered what happens inside our rock, with these small bends? Have you considered that things that jiggle in the rock cause bends by their jiggling, and experience time differently the quicker they move compared to other parts of the rock? There are microscopically larger bends inside bigger bends, a true foam of these bends bubbling at breakneck speeds.
Of course, this ‘foam of spacetime bends’ while gloriously complex to imagine, and tasty for mathematicians to define, is not really happening. It’s not real. It is just that our own way of describing things, with something being when (t) and where (x,y,z), becomes problematic as we get more accurate about everything. To describe reality properly with this language, we need a bubbling foam of small spacetime bends. Sad, but true.
Then, we need to combine this with the weird jiggly stuff that’s happening, even when nothing is jiggling, to create an even more complex model of what’s really happening.
Our science has been failing us for the past century in a way, reality slipping out of reach of our vocabulary to describe it, and the vocabulary not adapting quickly enough. At the same time, our current vocabulary, while verbose and unwieldy, leads to dramatically accurate discoveries.
As an example, inside atoms, stuff happening closer to the nucleus happens at faster speeds, where things experience a slower sense of time or space looks compressed — depending on how you look at it — because of the ‘evening out’ thing I mentioned above.
This is ultimately responsible for why a metal like gold shines yellow and, well, looks goldish. It looks yellow and goldish because of an imbalance caused by the compression of spacetime through the different orbits of electrons that are excited by light and bounce it back, causing blue light-wave lengths to be filtered more than other light is. Most other metals don’t have this outspoken imbalance so look more white-ish than gold does. Interestingly, some other chemical properties of gold that make it a very valuable metal — it doesn’t stain or corrode easily — are also due to this effect of relativity.
I generally dislike it when people say things are “too complex” to understand, because that’s usually the case when they don’t fully understand it themselves, like not understanding the bag of chips. There is a truth that some things take a long time to fully understand, though. Why gold is coloured the way it is would take a very long time to understand fully, and I don’t understand it well enough to feel confident in explaining it to a child exposed to its tunnel of “why?” backfire questions.
The child then, lacks all of this knowledge, but will be the first to notice the yellowish glittery things in the mud and point them out, to everyone.
Finally, there is new vocabulary, ‘emerging’ — you can start with a Wikipedia article on Emergent Gravity to learn about it — that you could build around the fact that all of the stuff that the rock is made of gets kind of entangled with each other as it jiggles and adheres to mechanical rules, slowly forming entangled pairs of information, that can not be separated from each other anymore.
While this happens, the amount of stuff that can still change in the rock, the table, and the room, slowly gets smaller and smaller, until we would reach a state when everything we know is entangled with each other into the final configuration of the universe. Eventually, perhaps a frozen skeleton of final possibilities remains — a very large depiction of the number ‘42’, if you want.
This would be a good description of why everything eventually cools down, but moreover it can also be used as a definition of what “time” really is: the continuous entanglement of stuff. Replacing the meaning of time with this statistical concept creates various different understandings and vocabularies to describe reality.
Using this perspective, some of the weird stuff happening with jiggling and time-compressing things can emerge from a gradual entanglement of very small things, affecting the course of time and how things can still be affected around it.
This is a rather child-like observance that would replace the more grown-up belief in two or three deeper laws of nature with one rather obvious thing. Ultimately this may be even harder to work with however than the foam of spacetime bubbly things, time will tell how this science of entropic forces emerges. It does look very promising.
Still, even with all this, the child wonders whether this particular rock might not, due to some particular coincidence, be in the exact same configuration as it once was. Not because it froze, but just because of a random chance that things reoccur or jiggle back into some previous state. Similarly, maybe due to some random chance, some dust particles in the room might float back to the exact same position they had, hours ago.
Mathematically, the probability of this happening nears towards zero as the accuracy of consideration increases. Yet, nobody would be able to prove that this particular rock or fleck of dust would not, in a rare circumstance, be coming back to some exact state that it had before. There is always hope, mysticism, and wonder left in the world, between the numbers.
You could try simulating the rock or the dust particle to the maximum accuracy with software, speed up time inside the simulation, and show an alert when its bits and parts are all in the same position as they once were.
Understanding anything in all these ways quickly drifts into a problem of computation that would require many times the resources of our universe to perform. If each atom in the universe other than the rock would become a super-computer with no other problem to consider than the rock’s next state, we would still not be able to calculate it. There’s just too much ‘stuff’ happening, in real-life.
We can logically prove this to be the case, because of limitations of the amount of ‘stuff’ that can happen in any amount of space and time, imposing a limit on the amount of things you can calculate, with any type of computer you can build.
Calculating the state of just one single atom’s electrons interacting with just one other atom’s electrons is a deep computational challenge already that we are barely able to solve. I’m not sure if modern science is even able to solve it without the sacrifice of accuracy. It doesn’t look like we’d be able to solve more complex arrangements, let alone the trillions and trillions of molecules in a drop of water.
I’m no longer naive and not yet old enough to think it will never be possible. For instance, in theory you could use the compression of spacetime to launch computers into a zone of massively dilated time, and still be able to extract information of them, using a strange construction of two-sided black holes. It would be possible to have a computing unit calculate a near-infinite amount of time on a problem, with the results ready in near zero time. Maybe. That doesn’t sound like we’d ever be able to do it, either.
A different and more acute technology is the use of quantum computing to simulate part of reality using the very process that it uses itself. Some practical parts of quantum computing have become a problem of engineering at scale rather than of theory at scale and I do believe it will change our world massively in the next twenty years. I hope to be contributing in some way, and it is one of the main reasons why I’m trying to understand the physics involved.
Especially the world of AI will be changed, and by proxy the way we think of intelligence and deduction, and maybe even about science. There’s a particular area of philosophy called epistemology which might be challenged with some of the ideas put forward by AI-based proofs or deductions.
Nature however, ticks on when you do something with the rock, somehow performing all calculations with ease, carelessly allowing you to pick it up, throw it in the air. You’re blessed with the illusion you’re just using your hand to do this even though you’re using the electrical field around your skin to push the outer layer of the rock away, layers propelling this momentum to the next layer inside, trillions of times per second, using the crystalline structure of the rock as a strut to make sure it doesn’t crumble into a pudding when doing so.
You do not even realise how close you are to a magician just by picking up a rock. There’s only a small difference with real magic that would move the rock from a larger distance. You’re not actually ever touching anything.
The rock is also never moving instantaneously, the top of the rock actually takes some time to move anywhere, if you move the bottom somewhere. It’s what’s called the speed of sound of the rock, the time it takes for movement to propagate through the rock. It’s quite fast for a rock, and quite slow for a chunk of chocolate soufflé, but it’s never instantaneous.
Taking all of this in mind, this complex fractal cathedral of stacked mechanics, it appears that nature is not really slowed down by calculating the rock when you hurl it against a wall and watch the effects of this action unfold.
Truth to be told when you ask it to do too much stuff in a too small amount of space, and create an extremely busy thing, Nature cops out and creates a black hole, so it doesn’t need to tell you what happens anymore. There might be limitations to its computational power that underpin everything we experience!
There’s a new fad to call nature a ‘simulation’ based on these perceived limitations, which to me rather proves how we are always urged to define reality in things we already understand, rather than having the courage to use some things we do not understand.
Now, with these things in mind, what does the child learn? Why did my stream of consciousness bother to dive into all of these things and emerge with little to hold? As a sort of prowess in how my 37-year old brain has learned about these things and has managed to control the knowledge and un-knowledge involved? Maybe, for a part yes, but I think there’s a bigger point to make.
I often end up talking about physics, simply because it’s the science that unravels reality and makes it more magical than it even is, making it easier for you to combine bits and pieces of reality into something new.
Also, it makes you sound smart. But still, there’s three things we can learn that are important in life, if you consider how crazy a simple thing as a rock is. They’re about beauty, truth, and change.
First of all, there is beauty in the rock.
Even when you’d understand the rock, in all its ways, when you’d have it figured out, there is beauty and wonder in the world that created this swirly piece of compressed calcite by squeezing gas really really hard.
I haven’t even mentioned the organic stuff growing on top of the rock, trying to become something bigger or something more by dividing cells and mutating DNA according to subtle rules of engagement that avoid the entire Earth being dominated by moss, some rules of fair-play deeply embedded into evolution. All of this evolved either by chance or by purpose or by chanced purpose.
These DNA mutations and processes are — depending on what side of science you take, some scientists do not believe this to be the case — subtle and fragile enough to be determined by quantum mechanical effects, and as such life is not just the laws of physics being engineered into something derivative. Life is more than just an implementation of nature’s laws, it is a lens into everything.
As a teenager, I often reasoned, that explaining the universe to humans would be like trying to explain the game of chess to a chess pawn. It doesn’t even have any ears. How would you do it?
I no longer believe this to be the case, necessarily. The human is made out of the same stuff as the stars, and teen-me’s analogy has a deep flaw because of this.
There is beauty in the rock; the uncanny coincidences involved in me writing to you, about rocks, about moss, and in you, of all beings, reading this entire thing from diodes emitting geometrical patterns onto your retina, tunneling into a recursive maze of electrical systems upon systems in your brain that generate what we call ‘thought’, mingling with thoughts already present, creating this very moment… the plot that propelled the events for this to happen are beyond comprehension.
The Universe kept rolling solid sixes in favor of us being here, alive, looking around us, calling things names.
There’s so much wonder and beauty in the world it should overwhelm us all. It should humble us, forcing us to see beyond the theater’s curtain at the fact that we are made of stardust, and look at our hands in gratefulness at what they can do.
Yet, it doesn’t. Much like the moss on the rock, we want to be bigger, or more. This has caused humanity to be obsessed with its own creations of ‘moarness’ and ‘biggerness’; its own engineering of nature’s constituents ultimately a cheap knock-off of what nature does. Many of the mechanics that are abundant around us in nature we are still incapable of engineering. Mankind is actually very primitive in some ways.
I do believe we really need to start working a lot more hybrid in terms of technology: combining biological material with computer technology, for instance. Instead of trying to synthesise everything ourselves. Biological computing is a hugely interesting topic, and may unlock new eras of wonder, the buzz of ethical wasp nests never far away though. I would love an opportunity to build things using biological computers, and maybe I will one day.
We only too rarely truly revel in the beauty of rocks, the rolling waves of the sea, in the short-lived shape of a snowflake. We sometimes take pictures of things and think about how to market them on social media so we can share somehow in their glory. We reduce moments to something outside of us, our fantastical minds functioning as a small low-quality camera instead of life’s silver screen.
This trend, now given a name, and labeled as a hazard, does feel like a regression in our minds, something that causes us to grasp to a less mature subtle need of social confirmation and dopamine effects, something that needs to be shaken off to unlock more potential in ourselves.
It is easy to confuse being social with being socially active, and start the wrong debate, but I find the commercial fight for the consumer’s time at least repelling. Apps are fighting against sleep, fighting against hobbies, the machines in the Matrix don’t take our bodily fluids but they just seep away our time.
We could be creating a world that helps us in understanding it better, not create a world that takes away the time for real understanding. We could punish products that take away our time instead of feeding them to people we like.
I think there are ways to look at this thing objectively and figure out what it means for you, by considering at least whether or not you can still be revelled by something just being alone, without anybody being around. If not, you might want to figure out how to recreate that feeling, and you can really take time to deeply focus on the problem at hand.
If you have children, it is good to notice if they’re able to do it, to find happiness just by themselves, without requiring confirmation of others. There’s few things more charming than a child playing by itself or reading a book, lost in wonder.
However, it is something adults are better at than children, reshaping their observations to be more mindful of everything that’s going on. I really advise everyone to look into meditation or autogenic training. The mind is a dangerously alive thing, easily disrupted, and most often by itself. I have faced many challenges in the past year, all of them due to my own making, and the good thing is that there are a lot of constructive things you can do and change in how emotions and thoughts are formed.
Life should be a balanced mix of spending time alone and spending it with others. When spending it with others it should be balanced in giving and receiving. For some reason, this has become hard, and I have been very confused myself by this balance. Maybe I’ll have better things to say about it on my 38th birthday, right now it feels more difficult than understanding the physics of the rock. When my father died, among many new thoughts, one instinctive and what felt like a ‘new’ thought was that in the end, it’s important to realise we all die alone. Dying is the loneliest act in our lives, but our lives are actually made of many lonely moments. It’s important to be able to love yourself so these moments become easy, which is often a hard thing and a relationship that needs just as much work as with others.
I do believe there is a pathological element to things like social media, and that for many, including myself, part of technology is an escapism. We escape things that are more sharp, more present and looming, when there is nobody around, lonelinesses that can be assuaged when you can share an authored part of your life with others.
Some people never have this problem by the way, or are simply strong by nature to readjust themselves quickly when disrupted, for which I have a profound respect and admiration.
Deeper into the insight though, I think we are often not revelled anymore by life just on our own, because we think we have figured out the rock! We truly believe we’ve seen it all and that even the mere act of seeing is not very special anymore. Our instilled hunger for ‘moarness’ bends our minds as a sunflower bending itself into a knot, searching a Sun that is not there. I think dreaming big and stretching your neck out is fine, but be wary of the knot.
Another thing the child may learn is that there is truth in the rock.
For some reason, the concept of “objective truth” has gained wings the past year. Trump, as a concept, reflects the zeitgeist in many ways, one way of which is the malleability of truth and the power of habit beating the power of accuracy.
Often ethical debates nowadays start with each side slowly establishing their own version of the truth, and then being very politically correct and objective about defending it, waiting until one party makes a flaw against meta conversation rules to then just bring it home. This happens everywhere, not only on the ‘internet’.
Internet discussions used to be mostly about people having different opinions about what to do with the truth, not people carrying different truths. People who did the latter were called ‘trolls’ and I have a distinct feeling some have forgotten about this or at least blur the lines too often. Everybody knows Mark Twain’s quote about arguing with fools, and it is even predated by an old Buddhist wisdom.
Still, many people argue in depth in foolish situations, such as arguing with blatant racists. I am appalled by some of the “leftist” opinion-makers creating big intellectual pamphlets with no other purpose than to offset their own eloquence from that of an obvious fool: it doesn’t really help, it actually mostly corroborates the situation. In a way, they’re acting more foolish than the people they commentate upon. There’s so much of that going on right now, further deepening problems, or actually creating new ones where there weren’t really any.
It seems hard to define what it means for something to be “true”.
First of all, there’s the element of accuracy to consider. Everything is jiggly and massy, as mentioned above. Consider too much, analyse too deeply, and you lose a sense of where you are in everything.
If you’re too accurate, you will end up holding a worthless deck of truths in your hands. Climate change is one possible example: if you’re extremely accurate about the data and treat everything as numbers without skin, you could say industrialisation with high carbon emission is only partially responsible, and you can then focus very elaborately on the gaps in statistical evidence to create objective truths, much like well, everything you can say about statistical evidence.
It’s easy to be right, in a way, you just follow the path of logic deep enough until everything is neither right nor wrong.
This would be your deck of cards, scientifically accurate but a hand that lacks ambition.
If you go the opposite direction of accuracy and become very inaccurate, you can use whatever party or political beliefs of the moment you need to deny that humans are responsible for global warming, or can do anything about it, or even deny that it is occurring. You use no facts, just emotions, focusing on the discussion at hand rather than the material.
This gives you a deck that only feels powerful to yourself, especially when you’re surrounded by other people holding the same cards. The deck however, doesn’t play by the rules, and is often cheated on mid-game.
Somewhere on this spectrum of accuracy, there’s a good truth, a simple truth, something to work with.
I find myself thinking back to something I read by Richard P. Feynman, something which I will misquote slightly, or bend to my purposes.
You can recognise good truths, by the fact that they have multiple ways of being explained.
You can recognise a good, solid nature of law this way, for instance. The law of gravity, two objects attract each other proportional to the product of their mass, and inversely to the square of the distance, can be visualised in a very large number of ways.
You can explain it with a piece of rope and a planet revolving another, sweeping out equal areas at each time difference. You can explain it with spacetime curves that are bent, pitching objects into each others wells. You can illustrate it by throwing something out of the window. You can simulate a similar law with magnets, although when the child asks “Why are the magnets attracting each other?” you will have to admit defeat since nobody knows, so be careful.
With each different explanation of the same law, a different side of the law may come out slightly differently. For some explanations you will get a striking insight into why it has to be “inversely proportional to the square of the distance”, and not to “five times the distance”. You will simply see from the visualisation that it has to be the square. In others, you will understand better how the product of both the object’s masses are involved.
This is the power of these different explanations, and a mechanism in how humanity ended up being smart; we started to combine different truths of the same fundamental things, into new things.
The thing is, and this is Feynman’s great insight: within truths, it’s possible to play around, comfortably. Once you’ve hit a truth, you can be more care-free, you don’t have to worry about causing conflicts with your own reasoning. Truth is defined by its lack of inconsistency.
Once you start playing that way with climate change, you can start taking any data, play around with some features and show new causalities that really feel like well, planting a trillion of extra trees and figuring out better renewable energy might seem like a pretty good thing to focus on right now. By proxy, you may want to consider genetically mutating the trees you plant so they grow quicker.
I really hope some key people in humanity wisen up, look at the good truth, and start a technology-supported job to plant trees on a global scale to reduce carbon emission.
This is something I learned: truths are comfortable. If you feel uncomfortable about something, it may not be a true situation. Or, you may have padded something in your life with someone with untruths or expectations of others that can’t be met.
If something is true, you can play around with it, and you feel confident and flowy.
With some of my experience in software engineering I recognise it when I can only explain a problem in very complex ways, and seem to be stuck in repeating it that way. This often happens when the behaviour isn’t explained yet, or even when there’s a misunderstanding in place and things are not what they seem in the first place. Usually this is a good time to step back and rebuild the explanation from the foundation blocks.
The rock, complex as it is, has several mechanisms that you can explain quite simply. The comfort to find different ways to explain these things means they’re likely true. Flat-earthers will have a hard time coming up with different analogies to explain why Earth is flat, while there’s an infinite amount of ways to show it is round. This is a good lesson in discovering whether something is true without needing to understand the whole thing.
One final thing the child can learn about the complexity in the rock, is that it is ever-changing.
I remember an interesting microscopic element of a conversation, where I was talking about how when someone sees an old person, they do not really see the person anymore. They do not think of the person as once being scared on their first day of school, or of being madly in love, running from a dangerous situation, stealing candy in a shop…
All of that somehow disappears from the face of the older person. People think of them as having been old, forever. Obituaries are often rich with detail on the last couple of years of a person, and don’t highlight the phases that shaped their path.
When I told this to someone, and this is the conversation part I remember, he replied by saying that those persons actually do change. The old person is simply someone different. Everybody changes and people disappear without disappearing physically.
Theravada Buddhism deals with this as well, one goal being that you realise you exist of ‘Kalapas’, which you could relate to atoms, little quantum mechanically jiggling things, that emerge and disappear trillions of times per second from and into existence.
This way you never really exist and are continuously changing, what is called the concept of “impermanence”, and core to the Buddhist teaching. I’m sure this is not very practical to realise at heart, and I’m not very big on going too deep into these detached states, as it seems impossible to combine with real things such as love, hope, desire. But there is truth there, and letting go of things that have changed without you changing becomes easier when this realisation can fully develop.
So I guess I typed a lot, words come easy, sometimes. I started writing a story on a holiday last week, in a weird moment of inspiration. My 37th birthday seemed as good as any a time to finish it, and share with the world.
Beauty, truth, and change. Embrace them, and you will unlock some of that childlike wonder back into your life, and I guess that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned so far, and that I wanted to give back.
I’m a better giver than taker of this advice but they’re my three stars to guide life currently, and I have some evidence to see they can enlighten other’s paths as well.
Thanks for being in my year in some way, and for letting me be a small part of yours,