From the earliest years of my life, I remember spending endless hours pondering mysteries that I could never unravel by intellect alone. It is true today as well . . . though what my intellect (inferior as it might be) is want to explain, faith now supplies that which eclipses the rational enigmas that confront my overly stimulated and curious mind.
What does it mean to ‘be’ or ‘exist’ or ‘not be’ or ‘not exist?’ This question is primary and I knew and know now, that there is an immense difference between types of being: living beings and non-living matter (or states of energy). It is, of course, a certain subset of a ‘living being’ that was and still is of most interest, as I presume all persons are of this subset, and to narrow it a bit more, an even smaller-subset of that which is labeled a sentient or self-aware being (form of life) capable of knowing itself, its environs and seems, for all intents and purposes, almost imponderable; mysteries beyond our comprehension.
Particle physics is an endeavor to make sense of the senseless building blocks that constitute everything which exists in the cosmos. To this end, they have divided these things into elementary particles and composite particles. An electron would be an example of an elementary particle while a proton and neutron would be examples of composite particles.
The elementary particles are divided into two fundamental classes: Fermions and Bosons. Now among the Fermions we find such things as the 6 types of quarks and also leptons of which the most familiar to us would be the electron along with 5 others. Add to this the anti-quarks and anti-leptons gives us a total of 24 elementary Fermion particles.
Among the elementary particles known as Bosons we have 6 fundamental particles which encompasses the widely known particle called a photon. 11 or an additional 17 more hypothetical particles may also exist. My favorite of these is the Wino which possibly I had an overabundance of when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. Most of the Fermions and Bosons have a charge and all of the Bosons have what is called a spin. I do wonder who set them to spinning in the first place? Is your brain beginning to hurt yet?
Now we get to the Hadrons which are a category that lies beneath the list of Composite particles. They in turn are made up of Baryons (protons and neutrons we mostly have heard of) and Mesons of which my favorite one is called the Glueball. So since the atomic nuclei consists of protons and neutrons they may be bombarded in an atom smasher in order to release all these weird subatomic particles. But since I don’t think anyone knows anything other than a description of these things (they all seem to be related to energy and force) and yet one wonders how energy and force can make a tree or more intriguingly a man who can reason and think.
All sciences are scholastic pursuits and are quite good at predicting future outcomes of phenomena based solely upon demonstrations of repeatability based upon some theorem . . . usually put to the test by some ingenious experiment. And frankly I am amazed (with mixed gratitude) that much good as well as evil has been unleashed by these studies . . . making wonderful medicines and useful building materials as well as horrific poisons and unimaginable weapons of destruction.
One particle is also theorized and thought to now be found which is responsible for mass (whatever form of energy explains that); known as the God Particle or Higgs Boson particle that unifies the weak force and the electromagnetic force. Somehow this unification gives them mass . . . which sounds to me like squishing together atoms with heavier nuclei and therefore a density of protons and neutrons. If all these things are made of particles that are either mainly described as energy or forces it is beyond my intelligence to understand how anything has mass and weight. But without mass (and energy capable of having mass is mind-blowing on its own), the matter and the total energy of the cosmos cannot be understood nor could we think of the cosmos as a closed system: for it is a static quantifiable number that can neither be lost nor added to. Matter is merely energy that has become imbued with mass and that energy contained within this mass can be returned to its pure energy form (massless state) in an amount that is described by E=mc2. No loss, no gain, but a quantifiable stasis. And most of this energy we are told seems to be locked up in that very mysterious stuff called dark matter (perhaps 70%).
Now it seems to me that we have become quite adept at taking the right bits and are capable of using these pieces to build or produce many different things which is quite remarkable; especially since we do not have the foggiest clue what the bits truly are, nor can we penetrate their essence or wrap our finite minds around them. After all, every bit of this essential, elemental stuff is as preexistent to us as is God and it constantly combines, disassembles and recombines itself into a variety of types of matter and energy over and over again. But what is this stuff? Most scientists tell us that it is stardust (the incubator of life) but lets face it, this stuff existed before there were stars or else stars would never have formed. I guess it is stuff left over from the big bang . . . and how that comes from a singularity of all this in a size unimaginably small is quite remarkable.
Regarding Dummies Like Me:
Now let’s skip all the minutiae and jump to a simplified pondering as might appear in a book I might be inclined to write, titled The Theory of Everything for Dummies.
Subatomic particles make up atoms and atoms make up all manner of matter. Now when properly combined we end up with molecules which can form living cells and actually process its environment. They ‘eat’ other atoms and molecules for energy to live and they ‘expel’ the bits that they don’t need as waste. But we can combine all the right atoms and never produce one . . . so there is an ‘event’ that is necessary to start the process: electricity, cosmic rays, amino acids and a host of things we probably haven’t theorized yet. That is mysterious enough for most folk and they would simply accept it or walk away and say, “I don’t get it, so I’m not going to spend anymore time occupying my mind with such nonsense.”
But it doesn’t end there, does it? As I mentioned at the opening, we have cells that combine and live together as a single organism: a culture of citizen cells that have their own specific chores to perform. And if that weren’t odd enough these cities of cells that form organs or the country of cells that create the whole being (with thousands of these cell cities) develop into a living being which can be classified into two types: those that are irrational animals and plants and those beings that are self aware. And the crowning success seems surely (at least on this Earth) to be one particular being . . . mankind . . . capable, not only of recognizing its own life but able to contemplate who, why, when, how and where we came from and can also contemplate what purpose this life could possibly have. Is it just a fluke or is there a higher purpose and is the ‘stuff’ from which we are all made, God-dust from His Creation rather than stardust?
At least as far as this foolish old man is concerned, the elements of the cosmos are unable to be known intimately; for life itself is an enigma especially if that life has consciousness and we have the added ability to ponder the heavens, galaxies, black holes, quasars, dark matter, or parallel universes (should they also exist) and we are faced with the same mystery that we started with: a dead end . . . but a strange dead end that allows us to peel back layer upon layer of further more elaborate and elusive mysteries like an ever enlarging magic onion.
For my money (and at my age it is time above ground which is the most valuable currency) it becomes more important for me to understand the mystery of Creation, God, Love, Sin and the Mystery of Iniquity since particles, atoms and stardust are not capable of revealing such things but only lead one to think that they will somehow see or understand these mysteries by looking into a microscope, a telescope or some other more elaborate piece of laboratory equipment. I fail to see that such methods will ever reach that ultimate reality which we seek . . . the End above all ends. Those mysteries might, in this fool’s opinion, better be grasped through Faith, Hope and Charity grown in the quiet of profound prayer. Take two aspirins, go to bed, and call me in the morning; for by ingesting C9H8O4 (acetylsalicylic acid) you will feel much better – though its a mystery to me why it would.