The Small of All things


We are victims of legends. And it often seems, always will be. The key is to determine which legends help us to find and achieve what we want, whatever that may be. Many of the legends we’ve inherited as humans include the legend of the ‘ultimate’, the legend of the ‘truth’, the ‘right’, the ‘good’, the ‘Grand Unified Theory’ legend, the ‘objective’ legend, the ‘initial conditions’ legend, and of course, the ‘God’ legend. The problem with legends is that they become bigger than we, stand outside of us, of space and time, and thus we are forced to see the legend as something we must try and attain, something in which we must seek forgiveness or redemption, justification or vindication. “Make it count,” was the central theme in one famous movie.

The problem with the bigger is that it causes separation, or as my favorite author wrote, “fragmentation,” as we struggle forward in our lives, trying to prove our innocence or confirm our value in light of something far greater than us.

Unless of course, we find a legend of the small of all things. This is the legend I keep in mind often, at least when I need it most. This legend was proposed in 1965 by a professor named John Wheeler in a phone call to one of his students, whose name is far more easily recognizable, Richard Feynman.

Whether it’s true or not many still contend, but truth is of no importance to me because truth is just another legend. What’s important to me is how thinking about it affects me, how it helps me to live my life, or not. John suggested something very simple, that perhaps the reason all electrons look the same, is because they all are the same, that there is really only one electron in the whole universe and this electron just manifests itself forward and backward in time trillions and trillions of times every second around every atom. That would mean of course that everything in the universe, you and I, our houses and dogs, cats, the building in the city, the city, the clouds, the lakes and rivers, the animals, the plastic on the beach, the sand, the factory making cotton, the cotton maker, the boss, the child, the stone the dust, are all made of the very same, the only one, electron. I read this while living in Catholic Lesotho, teaching at a university in a village called Roma, yes, after Roma itself, and it struck me how beautiful a thought. That at least in this context, God (or the big ‘It’ if you will) was not something so very big out there somewhere so distant and removed to whom I must beg forgiveness and struggle to impress, but It was in every atom of my body, and atom of the tree, and my neighbor and the mountains and sky. That It wasn’t even a matter of everything being connected as we often idealize, but that It was simply a matter of everything being one thing.

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