The title of this essay is: THE (PRIMORDIAL) IMPULSE TOWARD STASIS; or, My upside/down reading on one of Newton's primary laws: 'A Thing in Motion Tends to Stay in Motion (I see that as death)...'A Thing Stationary Tends to Stay Stationary (I call that life)
San Francisco is a most beautiful town. I think it is the most beautiful town in America. I am always happy to be there: it is so filled with human and architectural diversity. The world...nay, the universe...seems to be represented there.
Last week I went to conduct a seminar in SF. Prior to class I was sitting outside the huge, grey-cemented Ferry Building, right down at the waterfront, along the boulevard known as The Embarcadero
. I was having a Peet's
cup of coffee, killing time before class, scheduled to be conducted in a nearby building. (Lucky, no? Working in such an environment?) I sat on the northern bay/water side of the building, on a wooden bench. It was 5:20 PM. I had 40 minutes to kill before class; time to think; and watch.
The thing I noticed most were hundreds of people were scurrying past my bench, on their way to the various ferries
taking them to Tiberon
, the East Bay. Also, in an open area to my right, I saw scores of pigeons
scurrying about, darting hither and fro to find pieces of bread and discarded snacks. (Pigeons
--like people--are beautiful things to watch--forget the droppings of both; they are sleek, rounded, head-bobbing, alert, ground-bound or air bound, graceful and quick.)
As I watched the scores of pigeons
, and the hundreds and hundreds of rushing people, and I thought of other life forms near me, the fish in the bay, and the airplanes overhead,and the trees planted nearby; and I thought: why is life so different in form; and even more provocatively: what do all these
different forms have in common?
One of my students in LA named A. would answer: God create the universe. That's what all life forms have in common. To which I would say: But...pigeons
? Pigeons...? Are they
nothing but an over-effusion of transcendent creative energy? God created pigeons
to....what purpose? Once again: Why are there such a diversity of life forms?
Forgetting A. and faith for a moment, I thought: 'Evolution
'! But then after a moment, I thought further. If, as scientists would have it, evolution brought all these universal forms to this point, the same God-or-Godless-question applies: WHY? Why did the evolutionary process create so many pigeons
and people? And grass, and rocks, and CO2 and H2O, and elephants and automobiles? Yet once again: Why is there so much diversity in the universe? (San Fransisco is the place to ask that question! San Franciscans loves diversity.)
Then I thought: The Big Bang started it, right? The tangible universe (that according to the prevailing wisdom in scientific circles) started
with the Big Bang--and the universe of manifold atomic forms is forever moving out from there, ever expanding into who knows what and to who knows where.
And, if so, then, the universe (in substance, at least) must have--at its origins--been a tiny ball (relatively tiny, no?) of--forgive the non-scientific phrase--pre
-Banged material. That is, all universal forms that now materially exist in the universe started in common, undifferentiated, unified, small, tight, pre
-Banged ball...until the explosion happened (why the Bang happened we don't know...Perhaps A. is right: God) and the tight ball exploded, and the universe and all its molecules started expanding outward until they resulted in all these different progressively complex molecular/atomic compositions; until eventually, at some point (this point, for example) the molecules settled/re-arranged into manifold various forms (Why? To survive? Survival of the fittest?): called earth, H20, pigeons
, people, etc. still moving outward into the universal void.
But, once again: WHY SO MANY FORMS? And: why so many 'survive-able' forms? And..more to my original point: what do all these forms, pigeons
and people share in common? Maybe...nothing besides survival?! That means, we forms are doing these different things because we're only doing the same thing: pigeons
scurrying around looking for food, ferry travellers scurry for ferries at 5:20 rushing home after having spent all day in the downtown SF office buildings, me scurrying (or in my case, NOT scurrying but thinking) to survive
Suddenly, someone on the bench next to me sneezed. I realized it was more of the same thing! Those germs set free by the sneeze are other set of molecules set in motion by the little bang of the sneezer
sneezing; they are yet another echo of the original Big Bang. Germ molecules are flying out of him and are now now going to expand, seek to feed upon me, to enter my system through my mouth and nose, finding parasitic nourishment in my universe, my nice, warm, comfortable coffee-drinking body: they are trying to transform in me, into another form (perhaps disease) to survive!
But: THE question remains
: how do I reconcile all these forms into a single universe? Different path to survival? What we basically have in common then; not wanting to die? That's why pigeons
and people eat? They eat to survive, to maintain their present form. That's why the tiny viruses are seeking me out: to find a receptive host...to survive.
Maybe that's why all universal form is all about: surviving by retaining form; achieving a constancy (what we call ongoing life). The quest to survive is a mirror image of the pre
-Big Bang desire for constancy.
After all, the small ball didn't want to explode in the first place!! That's it!! Poor ball!! The outward thrusting energy of the universe, changing form as it goes, is host to an unwanted energy caused by the initial explosion (akin to the pre
-Banged ball's death). The whole universe is striving for constancy (survival) because the ball wants to survive, to get back to being a ball!! All particular packages of molecules are trying to stay like the way they are, in the form in which they originally exist as separate entities: as a pigeon
, a person, H2O or a porcelain
dish, because they are an aspect of universal need for a pre
-Bang return. No one or nothing wants to be Big Banged--'energized
'--out of it's formal existence
Therefore, the universe--all molecular
life--is nothing but a thrust unwillingly out of its pre
-Bang form; like even a human child, unwillingly born out of the constant floating womb into an inconstant
world, seeking forever thereafter constancy, survival, maintenance of form, eternal life. People scurry for ferries, pigeons
look for morsels of food, the reason I teach acting; we are all common as an echo of the simple desire for the small, universal, primordial 'thing' to get back to its original--and unexploded--state of primordial stasis.
What that meant for the rest of my life I don't know; and I didn't have time to find out. The clock in the tower on the Ferry Building tolled six. I scurried. Late, I had to maintain my survival as a teacher. I know, A.: God helps those who help themselves.