“It’s like, imagine all the atoms in your hand… billions of them… they all have to move together to make it do this.” He wriggled his hand. “They don’t know why they are doing it …”
My mind turned back the clock a couple of decades to a room full of boys; young teenagers who, for some reason best known to themselves, had switched off the videogames and were debating the nature of existence. At that time, my home was always full of teenagers and that was fine by me. I seldom knew how many I would be feeding come mealtimes and the baking I did most days generally disappeared before it had a chance to cool. On this particular day, having reached the limit of their speculations, I had been called in as ‘expert opinion’. Apparently, my sons’ friends all knew I was ‘weird’.
They had been wondering about atoms that day too and debating if each one was a world or a galaxy, or even a universe… and if so, was there life on them… far too small for us to ever know… and if there was, was it sentient… and being so small, was a second of our time a whole galactic evolution to them? And was it therefore possible that our own universe was no more than perhaps a single atom in the bacteria upon the face of God?
And they thought I was weird?
And perhaps, chimed in one of them, if thought is electrical in nature, and therefore moves atoms and stuff around, were we just a thought in the mind of a being so vast that to us it would be a god?
So, did we even exist?
Or was God simply dreaming us?
And if we were a thought or a dream, yet were capable of consciousness, leading independent lives, and seeing civilisations come and go… what were the implications for our own dreams and thoughts? How much life was potentially in them?
And if there was life in them… were we as gods to our dreams?
And if our universe was no more than bacteria, what happened if, say, God blew his nose and we were separated from our host…? They were teenage boys after all… I was just waiting for one of them to use it as an excuse for not washing the bacteria off their own skins…
And what happened to stuff anyway? Where did the atoms go when something was destroyed…. And was anything ever really destroyed anyway?
And if we were part of some vast being, did what we do matter? Was it part of the life and learning of something we call god? I remember being inordinately proud of the lot of them. They had chosen to stop killing each other on Soul Calibur in order to look instead at the calibre of the soul.
I resisted the urge to simply answer ’42’ and gingerly cleared a space amid the detritus and sat down, promising myself that while they were at school the next day, I would potentially destroy a few universes with disinfectant … This was clearly going to take a while. So was the cleaning…
We covered a lot of ground that day.
Not for the first, nor the last, time, I sent up a silent thank you for my own less-than-orthodox upbringing that had covered so much and encouraged such questioning as I sat down to a debate I will not forget; one of surprising depth from minds so young and backgrounds so diverse.
They had all been open to exploring their view of reality, and of the world… a view imposed by their cultural and social backgrounds. These were minds open to new ideas, and I found that both exciting and encouraging, remembering that it would be these boys who fathered yet another generation of children one day and, hopefully, would raise them in this spirit of openness. If so, I was sitting in a room filled with hope.