To Be or Not to … Exist?
Imagine yourself at midnight on a dark road, away from civilization with only the sounds of the surrounding countryside to keep you company. Suddenly, light seems to dart across the sky. It is as if the newly discovered ability to create fire has been found by the nighttime sky. Suddenly more and more fire streams across the sky. Is it raining fire and if so, why has it fallen? As quickly as the streaks of light appeared, they seem to vanish, falling into the oblivion of where the sky meets the earth.
If you were outside the past two nights in the northern hemisphere, you might just have seen the image I described. Of course, you would have realized that what you were witnessing were the Persoid meteor showers. The annual meteor shower performance is nothing new but this year the meteors were especially visible due to the new moon being present (or not) at the same time. The absence of moonlight made the falling meteors appear even brighter than their normal which is so bright that in 2014 the National Space and Aeronautical Agency or NASA deemed the Persoid “Fireball Champion”.
What if mankind had not yet discovered meteors? What would you have thought then, seeing those bright streaks of light seemingly fall to earth right before your very eyes? It is easy to understand why our ancestors developed the mythologies they passed on to us, stories that told of angry gods and goddesses controlling the elements.
There were many similar names for the one deity of the Abrahamic mythologies that became the religions we know today of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity: Elohim Bashamayim, God in Heaven; Jehovah El Elyon, Lord Most High; Jehovah Elohim, Lord God; Jehovah Elohim Ab, the Lord God of Your Forefathers; Jehovah Ha-Melech, The Lord, the King; Elohei Marom, God on High; Elohei Haelohim, the God of Gods; Jehovah Adon Kol Ha-arets, the Lord, the Lord of all the Earth; Jehovah Tsaba, the Lord of Hosts; Elohim Tsebaoth, God of Hosts; Eli Maelekhi, God my King. All names that were to answer questions about the reality mankind was living each and every day.
The Greek Aristotle sought to explain reality and his views were widely accepted until a man named Isaac Newton began to offer his ideas. The English writer Alexander Pope explained the impact and popularity of Isaac newton with this: “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said, ‘Let Newton be!’ and all was light.” Newton’s ideas were not all original, though. One of his first laws about motion and the state of a body of matter, the reality of said body, was actually something first discovered by Galileo: : “Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.”
Galileo’s idea strongly opposed the beliefs of the Roman Church, beliefs which were based upon the mythologies that preceded the Church and gave reason for its being. Those mythologies proclaimed God as the Creator of the earth and so the earth had to be the center of the universe so created. What this deity had created was their planet, the land beneath their feet. Their mythologies did not mention outer space or even gravity. It was the nature of our creation that grounded us, literally and spiritually.
Newton proposed that the reality or state of each body of matter should be and could be described in terms of its position, its velocity, and its acceleration. Once a person knew these things, Newton postulated the future could be predicted by forecasts of future positions and velocities. Not only were Newton’s theories more simple than those of Aristotle, they left little room for the effects of a deity on such matter or bodies. The early religions could find no place for their deity and many, as they had done with Galileo, rejected the science. This rejection and rift between science and religion continues today.
The fact is that there is much we do not know, much that even our wonderful stories and legends of mortal and immortal deities and mankind has yet to explain. I am fairly certain that I am alive. I exist. The nature of my existence is dependent upon my well-being – mentally, emotionally, and physically. Like water in a pond, our bodies and minds can stagnate. I may not be a doctor and I certainly am not Sir Isaac Newton but I do know that my body will stagnate if I fail to care for it and use it. Muscles atrophy within ten days so if I take a vacation and sit in a chair for two weeks, I have reduced my ability to move. Spiritually and religiously, we also need to exercise our beliefs. Science, in my opinion, is not our enemy in doing this but can be a great help.
Once upon a time there was one state of matter – the solid matter which early mankind could see, touch, taste, feel, and hear. Then there were two as man realized that water could move, air could move; we had a state of liquidity. The idea of fluid matter gave rise to other ideas, seemingly unrelated and with the invention of a fulcrum or lever, even the heaviest rocks could be moved. Mankind was on the move and had the ability to alter the solid state of his/her existing terrain. Then we realized that some solid things or even those that were fluid could disappear, vanish into thin air. We recognized a third state of matter – gas. For centuries students were taught that there were three states of matter – solid, liquid, and gas. The world revolved on its axis very well with these three states of matter and even the religious community embraced it. The same early Christian Church that had excommunicated Galileo now used the three states as symbolic of their Holy Trinity, a concept of God in three – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Life continued, and consequentially, so did science. A fourth state of matter was recognized, a state of super-heated gasses called plasma. We enjoy our plasma screens for entertainment watching and even espouse their educational value in lecture halls but seldom realize their connection to unbelievable mythologies. Plasma if foretold to our ancestors would have seemed as unbelievable as some of their myths seem to us today.
Don’t get ready to close this page quite yet. The story of reality isn’t over because, just as life is continuing, so is science. There is now a fifth state of matter, a fifth way we can exist, called the Bose-Einstein condensate. First developed as a theory by two scientists in 1925, it took over seventy years to prove. Just as gas is a state of matter that occurs when things are heated, a reality in which water for example turns to steam and then is dissipated into the atmosphere, the Bose-Einstein condensate is what happens when matter is made as cold as possible, taken down to the temperature known as absolute zero. Molecules within steam move very fast and when taken to the opposite extreme, to the coldest possible, they have little or no energy at all. It is as if an ancient deity has frozen them for eternity.
If our beliefs are to have value, we need to understand their state of being. The tenets of my faith are solid to me based upon my education, understand, and believing. When I share them in the form of compassion, charity, and kindness to all, they become liquid, flowing over all I encounter. Taking part in what we often term a “mission”, those tenets of faith become are energized and when combined with the work of others, are supercharged in helping an even greater and larger population.
However, and there is a big however, there is that pesky new fifth state of being – even for our belief systems. That is that state of coldness, the state that we ourselves create when whatever name we call our deity or deities represents coldness. Our beliefs become cold and reach an absolute zero stage when we alienate. You have faith and live it or that faith will into a state of being with no energy whatsoever. It really is that simple. If our beliefs, our religions, and/or our spiritualities are to exist, we must give them life. It really is the only state of being for one’s faith.