Umi, Annunziata, and String Theory

Umi and Annunziata. Side by side. No earbuds. No Beats. The Harvard Bridge. Sunny. Warm. Late October afternoon. Cross breezes push ripples upstream.

Umi, I didn’t mean that I don’t really believe in string theory. I do, but…

… But Nuzzi, that’s exactly what you said, like in front of the whole class. I was like totally freaked. I never heard you say anything like that before.

I know. But I think I was just trying to say that it has no physical or philosophical relevance to me or to life, fundamentally. To actual life. Here and now. To you and me or anyone on the planet or in the entire universe.

In Theoretical Physics? Saying you don’t believe in string theory. Space-time. The event horizon. General relativity. The most basic theories of totally everything?

No, Umi. I was just like ‘Ok, so that’s how everything got created and all.’ As if that explains everything like life and all. But I mean it just doesn’t. It doesn’t have anything to do with real life.

What do you mean? Doesn’t it? The origin and expansion of the universe? The elemental seeds of all life?

It’s not that. It’s that it has no relevance to the lives we live. I mean I think of my grandparents and their lives. They got along great living in only three dimensions

Of course, and their life was good or maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was terrible. But the world changes and we learn new things, face new problems that need new answers.

I know that. The mathematics. The theories. They’re quantitatively and empirically provable theoretical concepts. But pragmatically and humanistically? They’re real and measurable and you can believe in them but ultimately, they have no relevant meaning, philosophically or practically. They are barren terms with no influence how we live or how we might choose to live. To me, at least, and possibly to you too, if you think about it.

You think I don’t think about things like that? You think I’m a basic geek?  

No, yes, Umi, but I don’t mean it like that. I mean take gravity. Nobody knows what it is, but you trip on a crack in the sidewalk and you break your arm. That’s gravity. Human relevance. Pragmatic. Philosophically, too. You make life decisions based upon your understanding of gravity. You teach your children about it. You don’t say, ‘Oh sweetie, stay away from the event time horizon, do you?’

You sound like a narrow nihilist, Nuzzi. I mean thinking that there is nothing that means anything except eating, sleeping, shitting, and fucking. There is no greater good, nothing more than our lonely finite selves in a vast infinite universe.

Umi, I am so not a nihilist. I believe totally in life. Life is the center of all meaning. That is why the end of time personally, is the only meaningful philosophical concept for us. Nothing is even close. What we do as human beings, how we live, how we treat others each day, is inherently, genetically, socially, and culturally imbedded in our biological being. The impermanence of life, finite time, knowing that at some point it all ends. That’s the only relevant event horizon with any pragmatic and philosophical meaning, not what may or may not happen billions of years from now.

Is that where all this is going? Giving more meaning to death than to life? You’re totally contradicting yourself. Life has joy, mystery, adventure, discovery, creativity, doesn’t it? Our brains, our consciousness, evolved because we have the capacity to know that there is more to life and being human than what you are saying. More to finding meaning in life than painting the side of a barn, having babies, and doing the dishes.

I’m not talking about doing the dishes.

Yes you are, Nuzzi. You’re missing what is essential in being human. Sitting at the edge of the sea and looking out and wondering what is beyond the horizon, and the next horizon. Imagining the things that we can’t see, the things only humans can imagine. That’s what being human is.

I feel like I need to choose one or the other.

Nuzzi, it’s not one or the other unless we choose to make it that way. Our brains are big enough for both philosophy and theoretical physics. But I have to say, what problem has philosophy ever solved for us? Name one. What can we learn about life from a philosopher that affects anything of meaning. Has it ever prevented or ended a war or poverty, racism, genocide, misogyny, or… ………….. stop, don’t look at me. Just walk over to the rail and let those two old people with ski poles walk by. Don’t look around, just look out at the crews practicing down there, and, like, maybe point to one and laugh out loud or something.

Umi, are you okay?

I have this weird feeling, like someone has been listening to us, and it’s not like just listening but actually writing what we are saying, like not just writing but like writing dialogue for us, like making us say what we are saying, like right this second when I am saying what I’m saying, and I don’t even know what I’m going to say next and it made me say that I don’t know… It’s like someone is writing a story I’m in and putting words in my mouth. Both of us.

That’s so totally weird. You’re not making this up, are you?

Or maybe it’s like someone with a high-tech AI content-generator app is using like a universal, multilingual, transducer, computer dialog algorithm listening to us, with like a long-distance, uni-directional tele-focus microphone using voice recognition on us to grab our voices on re-synthesis software feeding it back to us make us say this stuff? I don’t even talk like this. Have you ever heard me talk like this before? Either way, I bet they’re going to publish this in some podcast or a short story collection, totally co-opting and commodifying us without our permission, making us like not real people but just made-up words.

Or maybe he’s just writing that too, and making me say that, and isn’t it weird that there are no quote marks around anything we’re saying.

… Nuzzi…what’re you doing? Get down.

HEY, YOU, LISTEN TO ME, WE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING … “so cut the crap, you creepy piece of cow caca.”

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