Imagine you lived your life in a cloud. You think you see clearly, as well as anyone else. But nothing is vivid. Shadows dominate.
Then one day you awaken to clarity. You have never seen a mountain. After several days of driving, one looms on the horizon. “Ahh,” you think. “Now I’ve seen a mountain. I know what a mountain is.” But after another full day’s drive, that mountain seems barely larger and hardly closer. The magnitude of what a mountain actually is begins to dawn. When you finally approach the mountain and it takes hours to drive past it, illusions evaporate.
We experience the world in abstractions, removed from stark reality. Our brains average things into a generalized caricature. Even at our most attentive, we approximate the world. When actual reality slaps us, it is startling.
No one has the acuity of vision to see things as they truly are.
The world teams with bacteria which ubiquitous presence was only recently discovered. What if we could see atomic structure?
I was a materialist. I judged things based on the tangible, the visual and that which exists. What I thought of as ‘the real’. Then, in Science 101 I learned atoms are anything but solid. In fact they are more than 99% empty, airless space. Electromagnetic forces bind the particles together. Solid ‘matter’ and ‘mass’ are an illusion, just terms of equivalence to varied forms of ‘energy’.
I walked out of class expecting to sink into the pavement. My sense of the world was transformed but the world just spun around like always. I was a walking sponge, a materialist with no place to stand.
The tangible is actually an electromagnetic field. My energy field resists the electromagnetic field making up the apple I juggle or the friend I embrace. My chair, or my street, or a tree are no more solid than I am in the conventional sense, as the atoms composing everything are primarily empty space, surrounded by whirling knots of energy. Electromagnetism is your friend.
But from where that energy emanates, or how it sustains itself is a mystery. So that Big Mac I ate for lunch sustains all this whirling energy? That Big Mac, which is also made up of whirling energy, empty space and not much else? Hold the pickle.
And anyway, my lunch sustains my living body chemically but does not serve to preserve the gazillions of atoms, making up the trillions of molecules, making up the innumerable cells in my body. All that spinning makes me dizzy.
And my 2000 Corolla? The gasoline it carries is also a store of chemical energy that propels it forward. But the steel frame? The tires? The windshield? What sustains the integrity of their composition?
Living or dead, everything we call matter, the whole universe is made of an infinite number of perpetual motion devices. How can I get in on that action? Oh, I am.
Within any atom, the strong forces overcome the weak forces, but both are necessary to maintain the structure of each individual atom, keeping its component parts, protons, neutrons, etc. from spinning away.
In short, we are composed of energy. And we are immersed in a ‘soup’ of ebbing and flowing energy. That is the cloud we live in. Different elements have varying frequencies of electromagnetic force.
Who can explain this constant, inexhaustible source of energy? Scientists assure us. ”Trust us. It just is.” And, of course, all this (atoms, the universe, and all the interconnected systems) just randomly organized itself after the big bang. No designer, no programmer here. Move along.
Boy, did we luck out!
Some websites actually point to the mystical, that ineffable reality beyond any language’s ability to describe. Others ignore the pivotal, unanswered question and dazzle us with math. The scientific debate rages, round and round, anything but fixed or settled. One site assures us “energy is not itself stuff; it is something that all stuff has.” Now I get it. Why didn’t you say so?
It is not a case though, of “what’s behind the curtain?” where we are duped. Because it isn’t a conspiracy of silence or misdirection. The real question is “what paradise awaits unveiling?” We merely lack the ability to discern and have only yardsticks with which to measure electrons.
“How do I feel today?” said the particle to the wave. Our part, what we can bring to it, is our attitude.
How do we recapture that sense of being an integral part of the larger scheme, like when a child first grasps marking time with a song?
With all this static and kinetic energy in the air, one must ask, “How should I spend my energy today?” How do I connect? Stay grounded? Close the circuit?