The Guts and Toes of the Meaning of Life

Engraving by an unknown artist first appearing in Camille Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888). The image depicts a man crawling under the edge of the sky, as if it were a solid hemisphere, to look at the mysterious Empyrean beyond. The caption (not shown here) translates to Engraving by an unknown artist first appearing in Camille Flammarion's L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888). The image depicts a man crawling under the edge of the sky, as if it were a solid hemisphere, to look at the mysterious Empyrean beyond. The caption (not shown here) translates to 'A medieval missionary tells that he has found the point where heaven and Earth meet...'
We’ll get to the meaning (and purpose) of life later, but first we need to talk about guts, toes and strings.

Physicists tie guts and toes with string. Or to put it less simply, string theory is seen as a promising way to integrate grand unifying theories (GUTs) with theories of everything (TOEs).

GUTs are about unifying three of the four forces that physicists call fundamental. “Fundamental” means there are no others. "Fundamental" means that across the whole of the universe are no forces, powers or energies other than the fundamental four: electromagnetism, the weak force, the strong force, and gravity.

Every force is one of the four fundamentals or is based on one of the four. Centripetal and centrifugal forces, for example, are just gravity in the round. Nuclear energy is the strong force flexing its muscles. Radioactivity is the weak force at work.

Electricity and magnetism have been unified: they are different aspects of the same underlying force, electromagnetism.

Electromagnetism and the weak force have been unified into the electroweak. To put it less simply: electricity, magnetism and the weak force are thought to have once been the same thing, or at least, different aspects of the same thing.

And you're not wrong if you think this is all weird, strange or abnormal. In fact, renormalizing the electroweak was how three nerds (Glashow, Salam and Weinberg) earned their Nobel Prize.

The strong force keeps it all together. What is it? It is ordinary matter (as opposed to non-ordinary matter, called dark matter, which is believed to exist but about which we know very little). Specifically, the strong force binds protons and neutrons into nucleons, and confines quarks to their hadrons. (Jeez! It’s got to be true, you just can’t make this stuff up!)

It is thought that the strong and the electroweak were once unified but went their separate ways shortly after the big bang.

GUTs are about unifying three of the four fundamental forces. TOEs are about unifying all four. Unfortunately, the fourth fundamental force, gravity, has a mind of its own and continues to go its own way. Relatively speaking, of course!

TOEs aim to wrap all four fundamental forces into a nice, neat, tight, little parcel. And the best way to wrap a parcel is with string.

This image shows a local 2D cross-section of the real 6D manifold known in string theory as the Calabi-Yau quintic. This is an Einstein manifold and a popular candidate for the wrapped-up 6 hidden dimensions of 10-dimensional string theory at the scale of the Planck length. Attribution: Andrew J. Hanson, Indiana University.This image shows a local 2D cross-section of the real 6D manifold known in string theory as the Calabi-Yau quintic. This is an Einstein manifold and a popular candidate for the wrapped-up 6 hidden dimensions of 10-dimensional string theory at the scale of the Planck length. Attribution: Andrew J. Hanson, Indiana University.

If you think physicists’ guts and toes are abnormal, string theory is even more so. What with 10, 11, 26 or 31 dimensions, most rolled up so small you can’t ever see them, yes, compactified if you must!

To understand spring theory takes branes, coherent sheaves on a Calabi–Yau manifold, as they say, gaily gambolling in the quantum foam.

But what has all that got to do with the meaning and purpose of life? Everything. And every thing.

It’s all about unifying, joining, integrating. But ironically you have to differentiate before you can integrate. So it’s all about differentiation within unification. The Many in One. The All in One.

Let’s not allow quantum physicists to monopolise the unification market. All persons, including but not limited to humans, have the gestaltish ability and the strong need to name, define, create, categorize. We’re great at drawing boundaries. We love to place things in their places, sort things into sets. It’s pleasant and satisfying when sum of the parts are greater than the whole.

But let’s unify more than just a handful of bosons, force-bearing particles. Let's unify more than all the fermions that matter, that are matter. Let's join together more than a mere and paltry 26 dimensions. Let’s unify the whole of Reality, including but not limited to the material Multiverse.

There are infinite dimensions to Reality, some compactified others expandified, some nested within others like matryoshka dolls, like the sheaves on a Calabi-Yau manifold, remember? Let’s unify every little thing and every medium-sized thing and every large thing. And that unification is Everything: the biggest unification there is.

Because every thing is part of Everything. It’s entirely obvious, uncontroversial, indubitable, undeniable and indisputable that every thing is part of Everything. By definition, for god’s sake! Axiomatically!

Everything includes every thing: hard things, soft things, real things, unreal things, material things (such as rocks and trees and human beings), immaterial things (such as souls and thoughts and dreams and mathematical formulae), and everything in between.

Within Everything are sentient beings and non-sentient beings, sentient beings with language, and sentient beings without language, subjects and objects, the living and the dead.

Everything is the biggest gestalt of all. Jesus is part of Everything. Jehovah is part of Everything. Zeus is. Satan is. Ahura Mazda. Beelzebub. Gaia. Quetzalcoatl. All part of Everything. Everything encompasses every thing for all time and all times: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Everything is in time and out of time. Everything is here, there, everywhere.

Because Everything encompasses all contexts, Everything is context-independent. Because Everything encompasses all values, Everything is values-free, ie does not represent or favour any particular value over any other. All attributes or qualities are present in Everything. Things that are conscious are part of Everything: therefore consciousness is a quality of Everything. Things that work towards goals are part of Everything: therefore working towards goals is a quality of Everything. Things that are alive are part of Everything: being alive is a quality of Everything. Things that are dead are part of Everything: being dead is a quality of Everything. Everything is alive and dead: a divine paradox.

The purpose and meaning of Everything’s life is to know, experience and understand every single one of her infinite aspects. Among those infinite aspects are you, me, the girl next door with greasy hair, a rat-shaped rock in my backyard, and a whole lot of other things as well -- in fact all things, including what it is like to be a bat or a strange quark.

The purpose and meaning of my life is to help Everything experience, know and understand what it's like to be me.

The purpose and meaning of your life is to help Everything experience, know and understand what it's like to be you.

The purpose and meaning of the Pope’s life is to help Everything experience what it's like being the Pope.

The purpose and meaning of the Dalai Lama’s life is for Everything to know what it's like being the Dalai lama.

The purpose and meaning of the life of the girl next door with greasy hair is to help Everything understand what it's like to be the girl next door with greasy hair.

A rock's here to be a rock. A bat’s here to be a bat. You’re here to be you. I’m here being me.

The purpose and meaning of Everything's life, life in general, is to know, experience and understand every part of her infinite being.

We are all creators. We all help create Everything, each creating a particular part for which we take ownership and responsibility.

The nature of reality is as follows: Everything. If and when the universe came into being, Everything came into being. If and when the universe dies and vanishes to nothingness, Everything dies and vanishes to nothingness.

Everything is made of the same stuff as every thing is made of, ie, Everything-stuff is in a rock, a tree, a bacterium, a force, an idea, a dog, a molecule, a piece of anti-matter, dark energy, light energy, a book, a singularity, a lightning strike, a formula, a thought, a person, an animal, an algorithm, an alien, a leper, the act of defenestration, broken glass, shards of perplexity, and a bat.)

Entanglement writ large: no separation between anything. Everything is the same stuff. As the Buddhist said to the hotdog vendor, "make me one with everything". It's the Great Chain of Being. It's worlds within worlds. Reality scales every which way, not just up and down. Reality is lumpy and smooth, discreet and continuous, particulate and wavy. Like the quantum foam, Reality is granular in a non-granular way.

Most of what I've said in this post is factual and logical. There's nothing dubious about the statement that every thing is part of Everything. But now I will state something that I believe to be true but which is not initially self-evident. And that is that Everything, aka Reality, is alive and well and living her dream! I believe that Everything, as a whole, is an actual, living organism, a lifeform who is growing and learning and developing. I believe that Reality, as a whole, is The Biggest Person There Is: was born, will die and will be reborn. (Technically, there are several scenarios for the birth, death and rebirth of the material universe, including my personal favourite, the "Big Bang / Big Crunch Cycle", for which a poetic metaphor is, the heartbeat of the cosmos.)

Life really does seem to operate at multiple levels simultaneously, with cells and bacteria living in the bodies of living organisms, living in the living biospheres of living planets, and so on... Isn't Life more likely at the higher resolution, the finer granularity, the broader gestalt? If anything has personhood, wouldn't it be the larger, more complex entity, hence the saying, "larger than life"? It's hard to pin down "life", to define it, satisfactorily, in words. But I think it comes reasonably close to say that life is structured chaos, that it's an emergent process activated by the attainment of a certain level of complexity. And there's nothing more complex, more structured and more chaotic, than Everything.

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4 comments

mgeorge said...


It gets even more weird:

A physicist who is also in cosmology noted the strong similarity of these:
- the separate "orbits" (tracks) of electrons around an atomic nucleus.
- the separate orbits of stars around the central black hole of our galaxy.

Dark matter has been outclassed or outnumbered. The theorists now say it only makes up 26% (compared to 5% for garden-variety matter). The new Big Thing is dark energy which contributes 69% of the total energy (mass-energy) observed.

masterymistery said...

HI mgeorge, There should be a law that physicists are required to add four words to the end of every statement they make: "as we know it". It's likely that dark energy comprises 69% of all mass energy, "a.w.k.i.". Thanks to Gene Roddenberry, the inventor of "Star Trek" for those immortal words from Spock's mouth: "It's life Jim, but not as we know it!" Thanks for your comments.

Tim Bowers said...

"...in living organisms" -- i recently read that there are more non-human bacterial cells living in a human body than there are human cells.. so we are more communities of cells than distinct unique only-one-type-of-creature.

Is Everything limited to 'things' real or unreal? Can NOTHINGNESS be considered part of everything? Can the CONTENTS OF THE NULL SET be part of everything or can we only hold on to the idea of the CONTENTS OF THE NULL SET.

Back in 1975, in WU SHU class Master Sin The (pronounce 'tay') wrote ideogram names on our GI jackets ~ whatever we like. I asked him to write "Tree" - my dorm nick name due to my 2 meter tallness. He asked "do you mean real actual tree or the idea of a tree?"

If you haven't heard this music, this song, I believe you will love it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rjbtsX7twc&list=RD2rjbtsX7twc

acapella science - brilliant, isn't it?!

masterymistery said...

Hi Tim,

"Bohemian Gravity" -- highly entertaining! Utterly brilliant! Thanks so much!

I think all living organisms are communities of organisms which themselves are communities of organisms. The material Universe is one such community, and a very large one it is too! But the material Universe herself lives as an organism inside another community of organisms: Reality as a whole.

Re nested organisms (e.g. bacteria inside humans): Within the (eukaryotic) cells comprising humans and other animals are the "descendants" of (prokaryotic) bacteria that live inside the cell organelles such as mitochondria ... According to biologist Lyn Margulis. That seems to be a step beyond symbiosis: when the material substance of a living being is made up of other living beings.

I believe the whole of Reality is alive, an actual organism or Person if you prefer, and that every organism is composed of "nested" "sub-organisms" much like matryoshka or "Russian dolls".

We (language-users) created the word "Everything", and we established its meaning. So the meaning of "Everything" is axiomatic -- it doesn't flow as a consequence of something else; it is established "by fiat", by declaration, and therefore is not open to discussion or debate. The word means what the word-creator creates the word to mean.

So for me, the statement that: " 'Everything' includes every thing, including the Real as well as the Unreal", is established as an incontrovertible axiom ("theorem" ?). And if you don't agree that the word "Everything" includes the Real as well as the Unreal, then I hereby create a new word, "Bongletude", which I define to mean every thing, including the Real and the Unreal. And from now on, all mentions of and references to "Everything" shall be taken to refer to "Bongletude".

You hit the nail on the head referring to the issue of the interaction, if any, between Nothing and Everything. Clearly, "Nothing" isn't "Everything" but "Nothing" is "Nothing".

But this comment is becoming overly long, so let me content myself with a short poem and a link:

NOTHING IS WAITING
Nothing means something: it's a word, it's a thought
that likes to run free and never be caught.
Nothing means nothing but nothing itself.
Nothing is left alone on the shelf.
Everything means something, somewhere and somewhen.
That's why it's true, again and again
that nothing means nothing: no more to be said.
Every thing lives and nothing is dead.

Here's the link:
sTATEMENTS aBOUT nOTHING

Well, this has been a very long response to your original comment. Which I clearly found thought-provoking! Thanks.

S.