Mar. 25th, 2011

Stories are the thread that holds the universe together. That's what I want to think. All that stuff about love, need, fear-- all that is great, but it's only a story, isn't it? Clearly it is. You've got to level down, down, down, and at the bottom of everything there's stories. That's what I want to think.

Maybe I'm not far off. Some recent thinking in physics says the universe-- at the most fine-grained quantum level-- is really just patterns of information flow. A concept like matter itself becomes meaningless on the quantum level, and energy is just another word for the transfer (sharing) of information-states between different wave/particles. When this sharing occurs recursively or across different levels (micro to macro) in a fractal fashion, you've got meaning-- you've got a story. You've got pattern. You've got life. Basically, they're all words for the same thing. Life is a pattern that's achieved a threshold level both of complexity and information exchange/mirroring. The story comes alive, transforms, grows, and becomes self-referential. Aware. DNA molecules shift slightly, twist and recombine, and the creature becomes us looking back at ourselves.

I dislike the mystification and anthropomorphic mythologizing of quantum physics, and to some extent of the universe; saying 'the universe is stories' skirts that line. But mythologizing and a metaphor aren't the same thing. I simply think in metaphors (stories) to make sense of data, which isn't the same as giving the universe actual mystical powers or intrinsic meaning. It's an emergent, chaotic meaning, not an intrinsic one, and that makes all the difference.

Recently I've been thinking more seriously (again) about physics and stories, and being torn between these paths. I'd thought I'd given up on science, but it appears it's not done with me yet. I truly love physics, and I truly love stories. Words come to me naturally, numbers don't-- but I don't want that alone to determine my future. My mom likes to remind me that the scientifically minded among us tend to be 'smarter' in a broader way-- including the humanities, whereas humanities geeks aren't science-smart. It weighs on me. I think I love physics in a different way than Richard Feynmann loved physics, though I'm not sure. I love the universe, playing with the underlying concepts of life in every which way. With math and with words, we are trying to trace rings around reality, capture something essential and true.

When I tell my mom that my motivation is always the same-- that studying physics doesn't make me different, better, more like one of those science-geeky types-- it's like she gets it but she doesn't. I guess it's also true that I myself am confused and frustrated with the study of literature at the moment. What I like to study isn't literature, as such. What I love isn't stories simply because they're stories. It's always about seeking that hidden door into the dark.

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the one who stumbled

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