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Colm on Dreaming and the Universe

17/06/2012

“Dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before” Edgar Allen Poe wrote in his immortal poem, The Raven. In retrospect, Poe probably did dream dreams no mortal had dared to dream before, he is credited with having anticipated the Big Bang theory of cosmology in his essay-poem, Eureka. Of course, through no virtue of my own, I know things about cosmology that even Albert Einstein couldn’t of dreamed of, had he been high on ether at the time. In fact, Einstein believed the vacuum of the universe was filled with mysterious ether. A brief visit to the Internet will inform the reader that Einstein was wrong in that respect. The Internet itself is a concept that would have amazed or appalled either Poe or Einstein. What the Internet has done is change the shape of our bank of knowledge, bringing all human knowledge under one roof with easy accessibility, yet it will never change the way we look at information.

We are all human, and we are all subject to the human condition. One implication of that is our ability to get used to almost anything. Despite having possessed modern technology for so short a time, already we have come to expect things of our computers and most of us will abuse them if we feel that they’re failing to perform. Another aspect of being human is our eternal and futile attempt to improve on the wisdom of previous generations, Einstein, and Poe before him, all the way back to the Ancient Greeks. The Greeks to were emulating previous civilizations whose papyrus records have long since disintegrated and vanished from history.

Pre-eminent among the Greeks, Aristotle believed in an eternal universe that had no beginning and no end. Poe arrived at quite a different hypothesis, that the universe was a cyclical one similar to the universe envisaged by Einstein and the physicists of his generation. Terry Pratchett, a fellow practitioner of abusing computers who once said, “Never trust a computer you can’t throw out the window”, created his own universe, quite different from Aristotle’s or Einstein’s, or even Tolkien’s.

As humans, we like to imagine other universes or other manifestations of this one, it’s called fiction. We also like to speculate about the ‘reality’ of this one, if such a thing can be said to exist at all, often without great success. In fact, Einstein himself remarked “Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe”. With that in mind, I’ll close with a plea to embrace Oscar Wilde and his infinite wisdom when he said that “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative” and embrace your faculty to dream, even if the dreams are seen as being a bit stupid.

~Colm

 

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