The Theory of Everything

Let’s talk about Eddie Redmayne for a minute.

OSCAR.   Okay, as you were.

I saw The Theory of Everything for the second time last night. And I am still in love… 

I am fascinated by the people who know brand new things before the world gets to know them – the people who look at a quickly drawn tumble of numbers on a blackboard, soft bits of chalk getting in between their fingernails, after weeks and months and years of walking through life and imagining — What if???

The people who suddenly understand the motion of the stars or the energy of an atom.  The first man who imagined a way of taking Jules Verne’s wild ideas about space guns and transforming them into one of the grandest moments of human history. One small step for man… The man who takes standard economic theory and turns it on its head. The genius who imagines a wax cylinder of sound — our very own voices preserved for the future. A train, coming to crush a theater — and the moment it stays on screen. The dawn of a new branch of science or mathematics… We’ll call it a quark. 

Can I just sit next to someone in this moment of discovery, please??? 

There is something so perfectly, intensely creative about these future moments — when the way things are always going to be somehow bleeds ever so briefly into now, and we whisper the words “This is where it all begins.” This is the day we first hear of the things that will one day become commonplace and accepted, understood by even the youngest around us. We are changed forever, and our history will begin a new orbit after a moment like this.

This way of life, this constant exploration is THE THING that gives humanity our life and breath… we explore because we do not understand, because we are seeking that something that will explain everything to us… and perhaps we will never ever arrive at such an extravagant moment of – I understand. Completely — any more than we might ever arrive at such a moment of being known completely by another human being. Even someone as brilliant as Stephen Hawking has thought and rethought his theories. And so we continue on.

But we catch glimpses of those moments – brief hints filled with promise and hope.

A few weeks ago, when NASA and friends landed Philae on the comet (and the world spent the next several days making Bruce Willis jokes and listening to “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”) — they discovered that the comet sang. They think that the song is actually oscillations in the magnetic field around the comet — but no one knows for certain. They just hear the song. One of the scientists on the project – Dr. Karl-Heinz Glassmeier – said what is probably one of my favorite quotes this year:

“This is exciting because it is completely new to us.”

It was unexpected and unexplained — the polite and proper scientific equivalent of “What the hell is this???”  These moments are exciting. These are the ones we live for. They are scary and inviting, overwhelming and beautiful…  They carry us through the darkest places where we are misunderstood and broken, where we live out the brutal consequences of selfish choices gone awry.  None of us are perfect, sadly.  I have every intention of being just that all the time, and it never quite works out the way I wanted it to. But those moments of life – those sweetly quiet moments – I want to live here forever!  Those are the ones I dream about.  I think we all do… And maybe one day we will find that theory of everything — where planets and quarks align and there is a grand, overarching mathematical theory that explains why everything moves the way that it does. We could see back to the beginning of it all…

Or perhaps God is laughing at us, because the best answer we’re ever going to get is “That’s just the way it is…”  And what a weird and mystical universe that would be…

theory of everything

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