News & Views » Cover Story

Yes, Shirley

There is a wide body of evidence suggesting there may be a higher order to the universe


Dear Editor:

Some of my little friends say that there is no order to the universe higher than our own human intelligence, and that, quite frankly, if that's the best the universe has to offer, we're sinking into some serious cosmic caca. They say that recent events prove, once and for all, that we're all just glorified gene transports, selfishly and stupidly pursuing our own narrow-minded and short-sighted ends. There's no transcendent entity available to unite us in common cause or connect us to anything grander than the serial feast, famine, fight, flight and fuck fest.

I look around me at all of the people fighting with one other, stealing from one another, lying and cheating and yelling at one another, and sometimes I think my little friends are right. I've tried my hardest -- really I have -- to reach a higher consciousness through prayer, meditation, chanting and dancing. I've subjected my body to modification, scarification, flagellation, decoration, domination, enemas and supervised fasting. I've listened to Deepak Chopra and Dr. Phil, and watched every single episode of "Crossing Over" and "Nova." Yet still I can't say for sure whether the world has a higher consciousness than my own.

For all my studies, there's only one thing I know for certain: If I read it in Creative Loafing, then it must be so. Please tell me the truth. Is there a higher order to the universe?
-- Shirley F.

Shirley, your little friends are wrong. They suffer from the lazy despair of a selfish age. They confuse complexity with chaos, turning away from all but the most simple-minded certainties, banishing what they cannot readily understand, which is a lot.

Yes, Shirley. There is a wide body of evidence suggesting there may be an order to the universe higher than our own human intelligence. But whether such order can be justly considered as an entity -- anthropomorphic or no -- or is, rather, the elegant expression of basic cosmological principles iterated ad infinitum in boundlessly expanding space remains for now a question of metaphysics, whose answer is left to each observer's own determination. And I'm not just talking about interstellar alien life forms, either, especially since most of them are probably outside our event horizon, anyway. The few who aren't seem obsessed with probing our reproductive and excretory organs, which, supraluminal spaceships or no, doesn't seem so awfully intelligent to me.

No higher order to the universe? Why, you might just as well deny the reciprocal equivalency of the several superstring theories with their opposite M-theory pseudopodia. (Not that even those skeptical little friends of yours would ever be that silly.) People today believe only in what they can observe, but clever young ladies like you know that the very act of observing can change -- or perhaps even create -- reality. Probability functions collapse into a single obedient event. Quanta act aptly as particle or wave, putting on the costume and makeup of one or the other based on nothing more than the holiday wishes of the Shirleys of the world.

Can you play "Cat's Cradle" with the crocheted superstrings that loop all creation together in their three-plus-one expanded dimensions? Can you untangle the knots of the hidden seven? Can you curl up in the brane that blankets all existence or watch its rare, intimate rendezvous with its parallel mate, the encounters that bend and bulge the birth of galaxies? Of course not! But the limitations of our clumsy hands and meager understanding are no barrier to existence. What hubris to imagine that we, who are part of creation, could hold all of creation in the few ounces of our gray matter not devoted to sugar plums and survival, banishing to oblivion all the wonders too large, small or exotic for our feeble imaginations to envision.

"You are only, only ..." your little friends say, and, in believing it, they seem to make it so. But I know, Shirley, that you hold probabilities inside you that no one has yet observed. You are possibilities yet unsounded by your unimaginative friends. And yet, while fundamentally uncertain and indeterminate, all that you are is nevertheless a part of all that is and was and ever will be. Your endearing quarks, be they strange or charmed, up or down, your every particle, no matter its spin ... all of it is made of the same stuff as the stars, all of it connected to everything else by forces weak, strong and electromagnetic. And even as we red-shift away from everything else, gravity bends all time and space with persistent reminders of its grand embrace.

No higher order! The harmonics of every superstring sing out eternal assurances that a higher order exists. And should 10,000, nay 10,000 10,000 Shirleys spend their whole lives learning the universe's patterns and plans, they could not even begin to tire creation's storehouse of stories, nor satiate the thirst of young ladies like you to question the cosmos with wide-eyed wonder.

Add a comment