Maybe we’ve been looking in the wrong direction for God

Every picture I see of people finding God shows them looking up.

We bow our heads to pray. But when we’re in our darkest hour, we get on our knees and we look up for God. I’ve seen numerous pictures of Jesus with the light shining upon him. He’s always looking up. In every depiction of an encounter with God in the movies and in paintings, those pious people are looking up (Thank you, George Burns).

But what if God is not up? What if God is not down? What if it/he/she is everywhere?

I have a really shy bladder and I often have to use a public restroom. I’m fine until someone comes near me and then the river dries up to a trickle.

To resume the river, I imagine God. Where would I see him? I’d see him down there, at 10⁻⁴³ meters. I imagine myself going down through the tissues, the cells, the DNA, to the atoms, to the quarks and the space in between the quarks, to the very fabric of the universe. I’d see the cosmic soup with particles popping in and out again based on their probabilities of being there. While I’m standing there, trying to resume the river, I imagine that I can see the 3-D cartesian coordinates of the universe at maximum resolution. Yes, sometimes I do all that just to pee in a public restroom.

I think of God the way fish think of the water they swim in. Most of the time, the fish don’t even know what water is. But it’s there, all around them. The fish don’t think about water. They have no concept of what water is, at least until they wash up on shore.

10⁻⁴³ meters is very, very small. I sometimes wonder if that’s as small as anything ever gets. As I write this, I recall how some super genius at my school showed this video during my class one day:

I just never forgot that film and I use that as the basis for my imaginary journey to see God. Powers of Ten just blew my young mind forever and has ever since left me thinking about scale. In that video, I saw how very small we really are. I also saw that we are only just beginning to plumb the depths of scale, large and small, in what we call reality.

Spoiler alert! Powers of Ten drills down to just 10⁻¹⁶ meters at the end. But we have instruments that probe even deeper than that. Our most advanced chip makers fabricate electronics where the smallest feature on a chip is 7 nm or 7x10⁻⁹ meters. Our best electron microscopes go further, down to about 50 picometers or, 50x10⁻¹² meters. To put this in perspective, a silicon atom is 0.2nm in diameter. I find it phenomenal that we are even thinking of making things at this scale.

Then there are the laser interferometers we use to detect gravity waves. We have a few of them on the planet. Collectively, they are called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO. It’s purpose? To detect gravity waves.

Gravity waves are exceedingly difficult to detect. Gravity affects the fabric of space-time itself. A dense object warps the fabric of space-time enough that it will bend light. This effect was predicted by Albert Einstein in his Theory of General Relativity and it was proven during a solar eclipse on May 29, 1919. During the solar eclipse, scientists saw that the light of a distant star behind the sun and that it could be observed as if the light had a curved path around the sun.

According to the LIGO Technology page, The maximum resolution of the LIGO is about 10⁻¹⁹ meters, which makes it an incredibly sensitive instrument. And that was just enough sensitivity to enable detection of a gravity wave:

Based on the observed signals, LIGO scientists estimate that the black holes for this event were about 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun, and the event took place 1.3 billion years ago. About 3 times the mass of the sun was converted into gravitational waves in a fraction of a second — with a peak power output about 50 times that of the whole visible universe. By looking at the time of arrival of the signals — the detector in Livingston recorded the event 7 milliseconds before the detector in Hanford — scientists can say that the source was located in the Southern Hemisphere. (emphasis mine) (from their announcement, February 11, 2016)

For some perspective, it is estimated here, that the sun converts 5 million tons of mass to pure energy every single second. According to LIGO, they saw an event on a very large scale, two large black holes merging and converting 3 times the mass of our sun into pure energy in a fraction of a second, detected as a tiny, tiny ripple in the fabric of space-time. I’d say that if there is a God, that’s god-like power.

Yes, I’m agnostic. I would even go so far as to say that if there is a God, we are almost certainly incapable of comprehending such a being in the same way that ants on the ground are hardly even aware of us as we walk by them. God is not even in the sphere of our comprehension just as we can only imagine the kind of energy released by the merger of those two black holes.

So to make it easier for me to imagine a god, any god, I think of God as the fabric of the universe, way down there, at 10⁻⁴³ meters. I think of God as something we could only detect if we had an instrument that can peer at something so very small that we could see that we’re probably living in a gigantic holodeck. I honestly don’t remember where I got that tiny distance. But to me, that kind of scale seems to fit my own personal conception of where I can expect to find God.

Write on.

Note: Thanks to Antyal Tennyson for documenting how to write superscript on Medium, which you can find in his article here. So glad I finally found that.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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