Chuck called this morning with some big news; he said he had refuted the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe. He told me that if the universe was created 14 billion years ago in a Big Bang, we could tell easily, when we looked up into the Milky Way on a clear, moonless night that we were not on the edge where we would be if we were 14 billion light years away from that explosion, but right smack in the middle of it.
At first I thought I should wait until tonight before I made my mind up as to whether he might be right or wrong, but it isn’t as if I had never looked out the window before; I can remember what the Milky Way looks like and I think, well maybe he’s right. It almost makes me laugh when I hear these scientists talking as if they knew something I didn’t, as if I didn’t have eyes in my own head, as if I couldn’t tell that there wasn’t any edge at all.
I spend quite a lot of time now just thinking. Donald Hall, the fine American poet, had a splendid piece in the New Yorker this week telling about his own aging process. He looks out of his window , too, at the expanse of the New Hampshire farm that had belonged to his grandparents. He hasn’t changed his ways much. He has always written about the past, when he was a boy, and those poems are some of the loveliest we know. He doesn’t write poems anymore because he says his language is no longer suited to poetry; that it has become the straightforward language of narrative. I don’t write much either for reasons that I think are the same as his. We aren’t inventive in the way we use words or the way we think about the ordinary events of life.
But the window I look out of doesn’t show the length and breadth of the long life I have lived. It is a constricted view, the hill and its small hard wood forest that rises from the back yard, on the sides cut off at the edges by the vegetable garden on the left and the enormous hydrangea and its neighbor the tall bush with the red fall leaves I can never remember. (The not remembering is a major element of the change in writing habits.) As one’s view narrows, so does one’s experience and it happens that with narrowing experience there is so much more thought given to it.
A privilege of old age is plenty of time to spend on irrelevant issues. If I can’t remember a word I can wait, or roll different words around on my tongue like a cough drop. I can’t have fun with science the way Chuck can. I’ve become a bit puritanical in the way I view information. I want truth with a capital T, but speaking generally, I just don’t know what the truth is. When Chuck says he’s discovered Einstein to be wrong, I feel uncomfortable, as if he has gone beyond the limits of an educated person. I’m not sure where knowledge ends and fun begins.
There are so many people today who don’t believe that science has any answers. Those are people who laugh at the idea of human beings being responsible for global warming.In fact it’s something of a worry to know that the topic that gave Chuck and me some fun is a topic that others might well believe to be the truth. Those are the people who believe that burning oil and gas and coal will make the way for our continued prosperity, not understanding that the burning coal and gas and oil will be the elements that through their pollution of air and water will destroy the materials that make human life possible.
Belief is all very well, but understanding of truth and science takes a little study and some trust in the minds that are able to explain the wonders of our existence and our nature.