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  • Parisa Rose

On Reality (Part 2: What is all this?)

[continued from PART 1]

What is all this? This is the pesky question that lurks behind every exclamation of how strange it is to be here. Here, in this life. Here, in this “experience” — a vague label that says only “things are happening.” Things are indeed happening. In here, out there.

Let’s set aside, just for now, the in here, the subjective experience, our private inner lives, or what it feels like from the inside to be here. For now, let’s not take on the baffling question of what consciousness is, why it feels like something to be me, peering from the inside out.

What can we say about what is out there?

Science has lots to say about what all that is. Molecules are made of elements, holding hands, and sometimes, if the combination is just right, suddenly, mysteriously, they spring into what we call “life.” A tiny cell is alive, full of even tinier bits that have tiny but important jobs, functions that they carry out on their own, instructions whispered to them from an unknown source. This is the magic of living things.

From single cells, bigger and bigger entities of life emerge. Cells gather to make organs, animals, living systems and the entire living and breathing planet, a super-organism of sorts.

We could go in the other direction, and smaller still. Cells are made of molecules that break down into atoms, then subatomic particles, electrons, quarks, and on and on it seems to go. The deeper we investigate, the closer we look, we find seemingly endlessly smaller and smaller parts. Are we at the final building blocks yet, or is this just how far we’ve gotten for now?

The deeper we probe, things start to get fuzzy and uncertain. There are multiple answers for the same question.

At the smallest scales, the quantum world of electrons and photons, instead of precise positions and locations, there are probabilities. At great speeds, instead of a set time and duration, we have relativity. As we approach the speed of light, time slows down. The fabric stretches. Even the lengths of objects and distances are not fixed. The answer to these measurements is “it depends.”

So much uncertainty. Everything solid turns out to be mostly empty space, void of real properties. We are left with a relativity that edges frightfully close to relativism, where there is no objective truth. Could these findings, these non-answers, be pointing to the fact that what we observe is not o