Sunday, May 02, 2010

Chronicles 72 - Heat Death and other musings

It's been a while and actually I hadn't planned to blog but I find myself on a train (with WI-FI access) having just returned from a class reunion where all of us present were, how should I put it? Of a certain age?

It was a great night - but - having not met anyone there for over 30 years, I couldn't help thinking: What the ...?! Where did all those years go?! And go they did - pretty damn quickly!

Now it might seem like a ridiculous quantum leap to go from a class reunion where we played catch up, reminisced and boogied-on-down to Abba and MJ to a quasi-philosophical rumination on the nature of time itself but maybe that is the side effect of these blast-from-the-past events.

Current theory and observations suggest that the universe came into being 13.75 billion years ago, and that, one day, in a dim and distant future the sun itself will transform into a white dwarf and undergo a slow, lingering death that could last one hundred trillion years.

By the time the universe is 1 trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion years old, all that will be left of the cosmos will be black holes and they will themselves disintegrate into stray particles, which, eventually will decay, leaving a featureless, infinitely large void - and that, ladies and gentleman, will be that - Basta, Feuerabend, Aus. Or will it? There is also a theory that, post this heat death scenario, the universe will implode into an infinitesimal singularity that will trigger yet another big bang and the whole cycle of creation will continue once again.

Now, somewhere in the middle of all this 'alpha to omega' stuff, we incarnate as (to quote Bob Dylan): 'spirits in suitcases of skin'. For a relatively infinitesimally tiny blip of time we are handed: a body, a brain, a bundle of desires, ambitions, wants and loggings - and then - if we survive our average 3 score years and ten, we (perhaps grudgingly) hand back the suitcase.

What we are not told in the beginning is that the ageing process is an exponential curve i.e. the older you get, the faster, in some quasi-Einsteinien way, time seems to fly by which creates the perception of being on an accelerating train with images speeding by at an increasingly faster rate. Simply put: A year as a child is an eternity, a year in your 40's, 50's is a bunch of appointments in your Outlook calendar. (What?! It's Christmas?! Again?)

Lord Byron once said that after all the buttoning and the unbuttoning is done with what we are left with is the summer of a church mouse.

Of course all this is a myopic view as it is focused on the one single life whereas in Hindu philosophy it is said that we re-incarnate time and time again and that the spirit itself or 'Atma' is imperishable and eternal. So if you think a trillion years is long, try eternity. Eternity is long and then some!

So, what's all this got to do with the creative process? Not much, or, perhaps, a lot. Ultimately, if the heat death theory is true whatever man has created whether it be the Pyramids of Cheops, Mozart's Piano Concerto Number 23, Michelangelo's David, the complete works of William Shakspeare and so on, all those great works will, one day, be destroyed and cease to exist. What this means is that all the 'stuff' associated with creativity: validation, celebrity, 'success', fame, acclaim, 'legacy' is nothing more than a transient blip on the cosmic screen. There is no 'legacy' as even the known universe itself will cease to exist one day! The creative process itself is the gift, the moment - everything else is baggage.

Life is brief and, as William Blake writes in his poem The Fly, one day, "some blind hand shall brush my wing". Until such time, enjoy the moment.

The Fly

Little Fly,
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.
Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

Live long and prosper