Well-Fancied Choices

[Video: “custom movie trailer” for the 1945 film Detour. A piano player hitchhikes across the United States to be with his girl. On the way, he crosses paths with The Wrong Woman…]

From whiskey river:


In every instant, two gates.
One opens to fragrant paradise, one to hell.
Mostly we go through neither.

Mostly we nod to our neighbor,
lean down to pick up the paper,
go back into the house.

But the faint cries — ecstasy? horror?
Or did you think it the sound
of distant bees,
making only the thick honey of this good life?

(Jane Hirshfield, The Lives of the Heart [source])


What we have deduced about the Big Bang is almost exactly wrong. Instead of a Big Bang, the genesis of the universe consisted of the uneventful, accidental, hushed production of a single quark.

For thousands of millennia, nothing occurred. The solitary particle floated in silence. Eventually it considered moving. Like all elementary particles, it realized that its direction of travel in time was arbitrary. So it shot forward in time and, looking back, it realized that it had left a single pencil stroke across the canvas of space-time.

It raced back through time in the other direction, and saw that it had left another stroke.

The single quark began to dash back and forth in time, and like the individually meaningless actions of an artist’s pencil, a picture began to emerge.

If it feels to you that we’re connected by a larger whole, you’re mistaken: we’re connected by a smaller particle. Every atom in your body is the same quark in different places at the same moment in time. Our little quark sweeps like a frenetic four-dimensional phosphor gun, painting the world: each leaf on every tree, every coral in the oceans, each car tire, every bird carried on the wind, all the hair on all the heads in the world. Everything you have ever seen is a manifestation of the same quark, racing around on a space-time superhighway of its own invention.

It began to write the story of the world with sagas of war, love, and exile. As it spun out stories and allowed the plots to grow organically, the quark became an increasingly talented storyteller. The stories took on subtle dimensions. Its protagonists engaged in moral complexity; its antagonists were charming. The quark reached for inspiration into its own history of loneliness in an empty cosmos: the adolescent with his head on the pillow, the divorcee staring out the coffee shop window, the retiree watching infomercials — these became the prophets of the quark’s text.

(David Eagleman, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives [source])

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