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92 Think about infinity like a child
Space and time
Early in life I realized that I was not
the same size as some people even though I looked much like them.
Gradually I became aware of things beyond myself and developed a
concept of small and large. That was easy with physical objects.
Sensing different sizes of time intervals was a completely
different experience. At first it seemed everything took a long
time. Eventually I realized that some things take longer than
other things. That probably was the beginning of comparing
spatial to temporal measurement.
Because I see motion, I conclude that
time is passing. Objects are not in the same position they
occupied formerly. This is a basic physical principle: we sense
passage of time from movement of objects.
After becoming aware of time, we progress
to measuring time. Following many years of impatience with the
slow passage of time, I learned to associate this passage with
the position of hands on a clock. That consisted of measuring
time by observing physical movement, distinguishing small and
large time intervals according to small and large movements of
the clock’s hands.
Frame of reference
College level physics classes took these
observations to new heights. Timekeepers became atomic
oscillations and the speed of light. Thought experiments
demonstrated that time is not an absolute measurement. A beam of
light bouncing between two mirrors appears to cover more distance
if viewed by someone who is in motion relative to the mirrors.
For example, if the mirrors are mounted one above the other on a
train speeding by me, I see the path of the photons as a longer
zig-zag pattern, whereas someone on the train sees it as a
shorter simple line segment.
The above paragraph correlates time with
motion. It introduces another principle: relativity. Measurements
are relative to some frame. Two frames moving relative to each
other yield different measurements of the same event. The train
example is merely a contrived illustration. In atomic particle
physics and astronomy, at opposite ends of human concepts of
size, the subtleties are definitive. What we experience differs
according to relativity and frame of reference.
A scientist recently interviewed on radio
suggested that the laws of physics do not hold, or are different,
around a black hole. I immediately rephrased that proposition to
say that we are learning more laws of physics. The broken
article 70 are not about mistakes in science. They are the
method we use (studying what does not fit) to improve our
understanding of what is science. Apparent inconsistency in the
interrelated web of all being is only my deficiency in
understanding all being.
Newtonian physics recognizes the likeness
of uniform motion to a state of rest. People inside the train do
not feel its forward motion. They see landscape passing, but they
are stationary relative to the train. Visual observation does not
reveal which object is moving. We say the train is moving because
at some point the people felt the train’s acceleration. They
experienced forces. The object that accelerated is considered to
be the one in motion.
Next, consider two trains moving in
opposite directions. People inside one train looking at the other
realize the two are moving relative to each other, but they do
not know whether the wheels of both trains are turning. They look
outside their system for some other point of reference. If the
trees appear to be moving at one speed and the other train
appears to be moving at a different speed, they conclude that
both trains are moving—relative to the “fixed” trees, a chosen
frame of reference.
What’s on the other side?
Armed with relativity,
forces, and frame of reference, we can resume studying my
childhood exploration. Along with learning about size, I was
hearing words like eternal, forever and infinite. I was told that
space extends infinitely. Since I could not see its outer edge, I
blindly (pun intended) accepted the proposition.
In a spirit of doubting,
I fancied that there might be a boundary beyond what I could see.
With lively childhood imagination, I projected myself to that
boundary, from which I could look back upon all of the universe.
Then the question hit: what is on the other side of that
boundary? I very quickly became a believer in infinity as
something larger than the scope of my imagination.
Article 88 reviews
earlier articles explaining how I applied that thinking to the
passage of time as well as to the extent of space. Distance goes
on forever, and time goes on forever. Wanting to imagine both, I
commenced my eternal-life stretching exercise.
I intentionally draw
spiritual consequences from this reasoning. While Newtonian
physics will still describe the phenomena for which it was
developed, pursuit of infinity will break some bottlenecks. In my
formal education, relativity expanded thinking beyond traditional
physics. Now the universities are expanding beyond the first
concepts of relativity. The traditional phenomena still happen
while we become aware of new phenomena that are not explained by
the old rules.
When my imagination goes
to the outer border of the universe, it is not eliminating the
known galaxies and solar systems. However, it is always freshly
asking, “What is on the other side?”
The sublime to the ridiculous
I reversed the
traditional words in this subtitle to prepare you for the
examples I am about to raise. Readers will differ about which is
sublime and which is ridiculous. Let me lead the way to the
peaceful valley where both are sublime.
We will apply the force
of reason within the traditional frame of reference and move on
to the more subtle study of relativity. Relativity theory does
not break Newtonian physics (apples still fall in the direction
we call down). It does enable us to cope with a wider range of
phenomena that are not explained by the simpler model.
Let us examine gender as
our first example. The old theory is a static image of sexuality
based on genetic capacity for reproduction. The combination of
gametes still produces zygotes; that principle stands. However,
closer observation establishes that there are unexplained
bottlenecks. The simple model does not account for humans to whom
the traditional pattern does not apply. It is well known that at
birth sometimes gender cannot by determined because the infant’s
body structure is atypical. Broader observation reveals
differences in organs, chromosomes, chemistry, and psychology.
The old theory is inadequate for some of the now known factors.
Even though human eggs are still fertilized, the absolute gender
binary is factually wrong, and traditional mores based on it
conflict with the standard of truth as we now know it.
Our second example comes
from the property rights allusion in
Traditional practice motivates responsible care by assigning
material assets to private ownership. People will take care of
property if they own it. There is a bottleneck in that thinking.
While the care and attention of ownership are laudatory (some
people wax their cars), exclusive ownership underlies
deprivation. If the earth is borrowed from our posterity, we are
holding a stewardship for their benefit. That stewardship
provides prudent care (we harvest forests sustainably) and
also addresses distribution. Wealth cannot morally belong
to the most powerful person to grab it. Any system of truth
assigns resources equally to the whole population. We are not
identical; I may need two computers while you need two cars.
Nevertheless, a system that provides stability of work tools at
the expense of other people’s needs (FISH, article 27) is skewed
out of alignment with truth.
Call to action
If you are sitting at the
farthest boundary, the periphery (alright, the apex) of
well-being, I challenge you to ask what’s on the other side. In
the infinity of which we are part, there is limitless
expandability beyond what we can already see. In his specific
field, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. climbed to the mountaintop and
looked into the promised land. For me that lies ahead; it is on
the other side of where I have been already. It is my choice to
inhabit the promised land with freedom and equality for all my
human family members. I think of infinity as a child in tune
with article 88 being a
freshman again—even in this life.
Being For Others Blog copyright © 2020 Kent Busse
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