Monday, April 7, 2008

Rambling on (into) infinity by Nick Brakespear

(Warning: Post may contain peculiar UK English spelling. Side effects of reading peculiar UK English spelling may include – the naming of Jell-O as Jelly, and the naming of Jelly as Jam.)

Here lies the story of one of the two things that have inspired me most in my writing.
Many years ago (but let us be clear; not that many years ago, for I have not that many years behind me to spend upon such terms as “many years ago”), as I sat alone in my bedroom or living room (I forget which, and it really doesn’t matter, other than to establish that I was at home and alone) in the early hours of the morning (which is why I was alone) I found myself philosophising about life, the universe and everything (and inevitably thinking “42” and smirking).

My philosophising was quite determined and focused (or at least, as focused and determined as philosophising about life, the universe and everything can be) for I was attempting to understand the book I was writing (which rather annoyingly had become so grand and sprawling a tale that I found the need to explain well...everything in the universe somehow). Limited as I am in my knowledge of physics, and attempting as I was to steer clear of quoting popular scriptures, I approached this task (of explaining the way things were, are and will be) from the perspective of pure and simple logic, on as pure and simple a level as I possibly could. I suppose the task reminded me of Algebra (or rather, what little I could remember of Algebra from the days when I was still in school and mathematics was a compulsory subject) in that I was attempting to take a vastly complex equation and simplify it down to its most basic terms. In essence, to create a logical philosophy of the universe within my story, I was trying to cut all of existence down to a simple formula of “this is, because” (which I later learned was something physicists have been trying to do for many, many years).

Given that, in the story I was writing, I had created a place beyond or beneath what we would define as reality (although let’s try not to get into definitions of reality, given that it has been widely accepted that perception defines reality from a philosophical, and in my mind logical, standpoint) I was then attempting to create a point of origin, from which causality would reach out and eventually touch this place, giving it a sort of history that I didn’t actually need to fill out in detail (by providing two points, I could imply the line between them).

It was this point of origin that had always plagued me. It is the eternal question (or perhaps the question of eternity) that has plagued many (probably since the dawn of time, if there is such a thing. Odd, isn’t it, how people use “dawn of time” to refer to somewhen so far back they can’t be bothered to actually place it):

What Came Before?

If we work on the assumption that the old theory holds true, and that our universe began with a “Big Bang”-like event (I’ve always wondered about the bang part. Given that the universe was supposedly exploding out into a void, would there have been a bang? This in turn always led me to thoughts of Nebulae – if you were in a dense Nebula, would you hear faint sounds? After all, sound is born of vibrations in your surrounding environment, be it water or air...why not a great cloud of gas? What strange sounds would you suddenly hear, were you to enter an immense gaseous formation, birthplace of stars, suspended in the void?) then we inevitably must ask that question. For anything to “bang”, what did it “bang” from? What made it “bang”? It seems rather difficult to believe that nothingness itself could suddenly explode (and given that, as I said, I was attempting to avoid quoting scripture, I could not simply fall back on God as an answer).

This reasoning drew me to a theory that has been offered before by both physicists and science fiction writers; that our universal formation is a pulsing thing – erupting, spreading out, losing momentum, succumbing to its own forces and collapsing in on itself, only to stir up enough energy to explode outwards again (such a theory always made me consider that perhaps our universe has a pulse, and we tiny beings live out entire existences between each beat).

But of course this theory is not an answer (or rather, it is an answer leading into a question) for if our universal formation is cyclic, what began it? What could end it? What lies beyond it? In another case of answer leading to question, I thought of the theory of a multiverse; that our universe is merely one of many, and that just as there is an ocean of stars in our galaxy, and an ocean of spinning galaxies in our universe, there could well be an ocean of pulsing universes.

This was once again, not a real answer and could not assist me in my attempts to simplify everything (for even with the establishing of a multiverse, the questions of before, after, beyond, beneath, remained). It suddenly dawned on me that I was looking at the problem from entirely the wrong angle. I was trying to find the specific numbers, instead of the formula. I was, in essence, simply dividing the same number down and down and down into recursion (when I should have been examining the act of division itself, the concept rather than the detail).

The thought came to me in the end, that existence is infinite. It is a fractal (and this, perhaps, is nothing new, but it led me somewhere so allow me to lead you there too if you will). Pure and simple logic (from my perspective at least) would appear to dictate that there could be no point of creation. A point of creation obviously implies a point before which nothing existed. If nothing existed before said point, then everything that exists beyond it is quite simply made of nothing. If everything is made of nothing, then nothing exists. And as we are apparently here, existing, this would seem to imply that there was no point of creation, and that existence is infinite (though many times since, I have attempted to comprehend the existence of something beyond infinity, outside of infinity, that might have caused infinity to know, infinite. In the end though, I return full circle to the impossibility of a point of origin and my head begins to swim.)

Working on the assumption that existence is infinite, I considered, what is the probability of any given event happening? When probabilities enter the realms of infinity, they generally seem to fall apart and we are faced with, the way I see it, two perspectives. One; that the probability, in an infinite existence, of anything happening is zero. Nothing exists. Since we are here, we are faced with the opposite; that the probability of anything happening is one. Everything has, is and will happen (of course in later years I considered the possibility that existence is somehow in a state of flux, incapable of existing or not existing, shimmering between the two, unable to exist, incapable of not existing).

This is one of the two things that inspire me to write. If the probability of any given event happening is one, it means that anything we dream, anything we imagine, anything we write, any series of events that we could think up...has, is and will happen somewhere out there in infinity. Our dreams, our nightmares; every permutation, every scenario, everything is.

As such, by writing, I am writing existence (and as such, perhaps the imagination and its ability to transform our experiences is life’s way of comprehending infinity).
Or perhaps I’m simply mad. Who’s to say?


Temporary Home

This blogsite is our temporary home while our website undergoes an extreme makeover of epic proportions (shifted septums, pacemakers, calf implants, dialysis, a fancy wig, contacts -- the works).

This was our old home, and while it is a bit dated, it's a good source of info regarding recent issues and the history of Prism Review.

Updates will follow regarding our new home. ETA summer 2009.