The God particle: all in God's name
Since last evening, I've been flooded with updates on various social networking sites about the breakthrough discovery of this all new, sub atomic particle with a mass of 125 billion electrons that exhibits the characteristics of Higgs Boson.
For the uninitiated, Higgs Boson is the potential key to understanding why elementary particles have mass, thus explaining the existence of diversity and life in the universe.
Before you get me wrong, let me clarify that I'm not a student of Physics. Hell no!
But I'm a part of this Universe, someone who's constantly in awe of the mystery of creation. Everything moves me at some basic level... mountains, miracles, rivers, rains, oceans, octopus, plateaus, people, dinosaurs, death, cars, craters, earthquakes, emotions, sickness, sex, trees, tears. It's all to me like this great big, giant ball that someone created... someday, somewhere.
And the best part is he's still at it... even after all these light years... recycling as we speak, every darn moment.
Barf! Not again, you probably just reacted.
Now before you get me wrong, let me clarify at the outset that this isn't about God again or the Big Bang Theory that's been going viral since yesterday on the Internet, prescribing to unravel the beginnings of the Universe - reveal its primary source.
At least not in that sense.
"Listen, I may appear daft, but can you explain simply (read simply) what is this Big Bang Theory hullaballoo all about?" I swallowed hard, as I put in a frantic mail to one of my cousin brothers.
In Geneva somewhere.
Someone I always thought to be too geeky and too tall. Yes, in that exact order!
We were also about ten when our paths last crossed, as he laughed at one of my poems. Like really laughed I mean.
Clutching his stomach, his thick glasses nearly falling off his aquiline nose (yes he was 'pretty,' one part of the family always is.), he remarked (and I quote), "'Thank you God for this planet!' What your entire poem is thanking God? How silly. Who is this God person? Have you ever seen him? Do you know where he came from anyway! And what makes you so sure the planet was his creation? Also what do you mean by creation? Buses, trams, people? Dumb ass!"
Bhaiyya dada was six years older than I. He never got me.
I was happy when I heard he had moved to the US with his family.
We rarely met.
Till one day, I got a letter from him informing me that he'd decided to pursue physics in college. Become a scientist.
"Your poem was the beginning really of my quest to find God. I've never stopped thinking of it really. I am on my way to becoming a part of the search squad that has spanned over decades, all hoping that one day we can truly unravel the mystery as to why this Universe was created. And as you wandered back them... by whom? When? Sorry I was mean to you all those years back. I now know you and I were always the same... maybe someday we can have a beer and chat about our own findings on the same path, albeit using different testing tools," the last paragraph read.
I never replied though. Some hurts run deeper I guess.
"Dumb ass!" read the subject line.
I cringed, hating myself for having chosen my rather stern cousin brother who's now a well reputed (another term for high flying, especially in science circles) physicist, shuttling between continents and colleges, lecturing scores of eager-eyed students, with a smoking hot Italian wife (once his student and a decade younger, who's also called Lola. Phew!), with numerous books of his own on the subject.
But I was bloody curious, so I read on... my first E-mail from my 'Bhaiyya dada,' smiling to myself, despite the initial irritation.
"You've heard of this dude Darwin right? Well, Darwinian Evolution sought to explain the origin of complex life forms from their supposed simpler ancestors. The original Big Bang Theory on the other hand, sought to explain the sudden appearance of everything from nothing, The source of the Big Bang was essentially the premise that the whole universe was compacted into a really small ball, that after randomly coming into existence for no apparent reason honestly, exploded into all space, time, matter and energy within the flash of a second. Yes, that's the basic funda. Simple enough sis?"
"Tell me more," I urgently wrote back.
"Significant discoveries throughout the 20th century, such as Einstein with his theory of gravity and Hubble with his astronomical findings precluded an eternal universe. Today, we know beyond a grain of doubt that the universe definitely started at some point in the finite past. See, we basically have only two, real legitimate choices claiming to explain the origin of the universe. The first theory believes in the Intelligent Design model, namely, that someone made the universe or theory number two that alternately the universe made itself, namely the Random Chance model. To answer your question, maybe the Big Bang theory was part of a scientific quest to identify an uncontrolled mechanism by which the universe could have born, designed, created and developed itself minus an Intelligent Director. Otherwise, let's face it, we men of science would have to agree, at least in some measure that there indeed is a Creator/God who put this shit together."
I paused for a few minutes.
"God? So, are you saying this discovery proves there is no God? It's all science... atoms, anti-matter, protons?" I couldn't help but ask, suddenly feeling defeated.
So Bhaiyya dada won... in the end.
There was a long wait, till I heard from him again.
"It's a big day for us! Here in Geneva, sorry about the snag in replying, but we're rejoicing this moment. Wish you were here to partake of this Eureka euphoria... can't wait to probe this new particle. Oh and to answer your question, I am an atheist, always was darling sis, so do you really want to get into this verbal volleyball? Lol" his mail read.
I should've seen it coming.
"Congrats then! You're one step closer, while I still flounder," I quickly dashed off my reply.
"To happy findings Each his own way!" came his reply, within seconds.
I did the next best thing then, something my journalistic instincts tell me never fails.
Some call it fact finding.
"Do you believe in God?" I phoned a friend.
She had just had a baby... something told me she'd be the right candidate to wax eloquent about God and babies and life and birth. Everything I needed to get over Bhaiyya dada's scientific stoicism.
"I hate God... asshole. Do you know where I am right now? I am in living hell. My in laws have confined me to this surreal house arrest that will continue for around a month and a half... at least. I can't read papers; eat non vegetarian, hell I can't even look out. This God forsaken room doesn't have any windows. What God? Which God decreed that the mother of a new born child who has as it is has suffered from the pangs of child birth should now be confined to an archaic practice of superstition; something my husband's family has followed for years. Supposed to renew my body and soul... holy crap! I want maach," she yelled desperately, as I shoved the mouth piece away, her shrill voice convulsing as if she were fighting labour pains again.
I hung up, hoping my Bong friend married into a Marwari family would get her rest.
Next call was to sunny Singapore.
"Hey, I just had a question. Do you believe in God? I mean, you must have read all about the Higgs Boson discussion?" I quizzed.
"Hey I have a confession to make," whispered my friend, adding as I leaned in closer, "The thing is I had stopped believing in God you know. I mean, you know for so long me and my wife were trying for a child. We've spent lakhs, trying out the IVF thingy too, many times. We kind of accepted it as God's will, till, till we met this amazing doctor, we really liked, who convinced us that we should opt for surrogacy instead. It was our breakthrough moment... looks like finally we're going to have our own baby. Cool eh? It's our very own Higgs Boson moment," he gushed, sounding every bit the proud, soon to be, papa patriarch.
So, science wins again I thought to myself.
After all, wasn't baby making the last bastion of divinity for us mortals - children work of God, etc etc.
As I wrote the column, I received another mail. This time from a friend in Mumbai, a woman, like me, in her mid-30's, newly married.
"Guess what? My fallopian tubes are damaged. The doctor just announced. I may never have kids... sucks right? Especially, when you found the right man after years of fidgeting with the wrong ones and can't wait to go the family way. There are lots of tests I still have to do. I hope there is a science that makes me get pregnant. Pray Piu, maybe God will listen to your prayers," her mail ended poignantly.
I'm pushed back again. Science, science, science!
Why do we need God? The question resurfaced.
Is it just to bless us with progeny, make our material wishes come true? Grant us good looks, good health, good looking lovers... and fat bank balances? Why is it that we link our every failure to him and him alone? Like he created this giant circus of human kind, producing billions of us, and then swore that he'd personally take care of each of our problems, losses, predicaments.
"But, God's always been thought of as a parent... kinda like a mai baap. Our Father in Heaven... don't you remember our prayer from school times?" a friend I had studied with in a convent in Kolkata remindeds me, adding seconds later, that, "Don't you wonder why God is always a Guy? In our heads at least... of course, there is the Mother Goddess cult that we Hindus advocate, but predominantly it's a Guy God."
I took a deep breath.
Was our modern day cynicism now forcing us to decide the sexual delineation of our faith? Did it really matter if God was indeed a man or a woman? Like really I mean?
Fair and lovely or fair and handsome? If he was straight or gay?
If he could be found by trapping a new mother to a dark room or out meditating amidst the Himalyas?
Maybe it was just easier to believe in Bhaiyya dada's God?
No logistical nightmares - just this one, massive energy field swarming with cosmic molasses that permeate space.
Like this really, bright ray of light.
Okay maybe blue, but that's just for effect.
"Why am I still drawing a blank then? A big zero? Kind of like a shunya in my mind?" I asked a man of religion in my final thesis.
Religion - the ultimate bastion to answer the most mind f****ed questions about life.
"It's like this," began my Lamaji, from the monastery I'm affiliated to, adding in his serenely soothing voice, "The theme of emptiness (śūnyatā) is derived from the Buddhist doctrine of the nonexistence of the self. The term anattā (Pāli) or anātman (Sanskrit) talks about the ideology of 'not-self' or the very illusion of 'self'. This theory closely co-exists with the belief in dependent origination, Pratītyasamutpāda, one of the most fundamental teachings of the Buddha, intrinsically related to key fundamentals of our faith, such as rebirth, samsara, suffering, liberation and emptiness."
I remain silent.
"The concept of Shunya (zero) emanated from the concept of a void. It also existed in ancient Vedic philosophy. But the concept of Shunyata that is so key to the South-East asian culture spread through the Buddhist teaching of Nirvana that is to attain salvation by melting into the void of eternity," he paused prophetically.
"Do you think we're likely to forget God at this rate?" I finally remark, sounding exasperated.
Lamaji smiled, I could see it, though we remain physically estranged.
"Who are we to question God in the first place?" he retorted.
It's like the Chicken vs the Egg, so I decide to put a full stop then.
Maybe that's all that there was... a piece of scientific innovation, a celebration of man over matter somewhere, a question of faith at some level... or in Lamaji's words... a movement back to where it all began...a quiet acceptance of the eternal mystery of life itself... the sum of the soul... the travelling backwards, like atomic masses motionless in their final descent.
Towards another time... the physics of the quest, to borrow an oft repeated phrase.
Before religion and science clashed in a battle that still rages.
Before we invented a sex examination test that helped us feel good about the object of our prayers.
Before Darwin... and dinosaurs... hell even before even Higgs Boson.
For God's sake! Not again!