Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Unanswerable Questions

Okay, so maybe I'm not so dull after all. Or maybe it's worse than I thought...

I just read a great article. It didn’t have much to offer but a series of great questions, which remain unanswered and are probably unanswerable. Ever. There are answers, but those aren’t really the answers.

For instance, and to cut to the chase for once, I’ll just re-state the question that I liked best: Why is there something, and not nothing?

Okay, get it out of your system. Say “God”. Say “God did it, God made it, and it’s all God, God, God. That’s God. God. God.” Say it. Out loud. Say it. You know you’re dying to say it.

There now. Feel better? Do it again. Just get it all out there. Ahhh. Better? I’ll continue.

So one of my mental hang-ups with questions like this is that “why” isn’t really a good question. “What” makes a much better question because it’s kind of binary. “What is that?” “It’s a banana.” Oh. Good. Got it. It’s a banana. “Why is that?” “Because of, um, a banana tree planted by this dude who needed to help this other dude sell a new kind of produce to make money in a part of the world where money is hard to come by because of a lack of whatever, bad weather and British occupation.” Hunh? But why is it a banana and not an orange or a shoe? Why do banana trees grow bananas and not shoes?

Um… can we go back to the “What” questions again?

You see my dilemma. It’s what makes toddlers so infuriating, they grasp the futility of “why” so easily and so quickly and they just beat us over the head with it for hours on end (on long car trips, if you’re so unlucky) with the relentless repetition of “why”. And for their part, that’s a brilliant move, because it’s always a valid question. Conversations stop when “what” gets answered.

“When” and “where” can get sticky but they still have good solid endpoints. So let’s get back to the original question and phrase it up so that it should be sitting there all well-behaved and patiently waiting for its logical one-liner of completion. Let’s change it into: What was the point at which nothing became something?

Go ahead, say the God stuff again. I’ll wait. Feel better? We soldier on.

So that’s a much stronger question, isn’t it? Because there’s obviously something now, we’re in it and we’re made of it and here it is. Just look out at all the something we’ve got! Reach out and grab some. You know? So if there’s all of this something now… maybe a better question is “If there’s something now, what was there when there wasn’t anything?” But that’s a trick. It’s a trick question because the word “what” must always be answered by either “something” or “nothing”. Since “Nothing” is a what, how does that “nothing” become “something”? If there’s something in the nothing, then it’s not nothing, is it? If there was less of something before there was lots of something, presumably we can just push back farther and farther until there’s less and less of it and then there will be a point at which there was nothing, with nothing inside it. Think of that. Nothing. All Nothing. And then there was something? What happened there? That little tiny pinpoint something right there, what was it that put that something in the nothing if there was nothing to start with?

Okay, okay, I can feel you’re getting itchy again, so you can say it again. Go ahead. Louder this time.
Good. Onward.

Here’s why I don’t like your answer: On a very basic level, your answer is still “something” in the nothing. God is still God, and God is still something. God’s part of the somethings. This little light of mine, and all that crap. You know? Sorry, not crap. Anyway, God is still something and if we’re saying that there was nothing then it doesn’t add up. 1=0 is false.

So the really brazen answer, the harlot answer, the lusty, writhing, dolled up and feathery answer is staring us right in the face: If there’s something now, what was there when there wasn’t anything?

The answer appears to be: There has always been something.

Always? Yup. But wait… what about… um… Try it again. Always. Got that metallic taste to it, doesn’t it? That ozone kind of smell of eternity. Going forward forever-ly is hard enough to get a brain wrapped around, but going backward is even harder. Infinity? WTF? I don’t know about you but here in this big soup of somethings where everything is (often to a disastrous extent) finite, hopelessly, unwaveringly, relentlessly fininte… How can a big soup of finite come from a bigger sea of infinite?

(heh, “relentlessly finite” I has an effusive.)

That’s another great question for another day. It’s okay though, that’s got answers which are easier to get my brain wrapped around. Mostly because of what physics tells us and amino acids and electricity and stuff. That all makes sense.

The other stuff though. Whoa. You know?

And no. I’m not high. Not even a teency weency bit.

Just for old time's sake now, say it for me again. To kind of clear the air of all this metaphysical bullcrap I’ve been slinging through your brains. Eh? Come on. Nice and loud.

Good job.

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