Friday night I watched “Memoirs of a Geisha.” In it, a reference was made to an ancient Chinese poem titled, “Loss.” The poem consisted of three words, which the poet had crossed out, the point being that loss cannot be seen.
I think that this perfect poem is a doorway into the purest expression of physics.
The goal of physics is to discover the ultimate nature of reality. The reality of loss is that you can’t get the lost thing back. You can’t undo an action. You can’t reverse it. In this way, the loss is infinite, eternal. It is continuous.
In his book, “The Big Questions”, quantum physicist Michael Brooks, states it this way:
“It is easy to imagine how the undulating landscape of gravity affects motion through space. But the same is true of motion through time: this undulates too. Pack enough mass and energy into a small enough region of space and you can even bend time into a loop – it is rather like rolling up a sheet of rubber so that the ends meet and you can walk around the surface without ever reaching an endpoint. In this configuration of the universe, a moment repeats itself endlessly.”
Your experiences of life and your personality, I suppose, will dictate how you react to that statement. I was standing over the sale table in Barnes and Noble, skimming Brooks’ chapter on time travel. And there it was, articulated, explained by the science of physics, my own vague, inarticulate sense that every moment in “time” is running continuously. I had come to this sense of the continuum of time before I had read any physics, before I had heard of the space-time continuum theory of physics. I had come to it in those dark hours of the night when you lie awake scarcely able to breathe because grief has your heart in its fist and the fist is tightening, pinning you like an insect and you know that you cannot, will never escape it.
Standing there in Barnes and Noble, I threw my hand over my mouth and stinging tears sprang to my eyes.
He sat across the living room from me, leaning on his cane. He was pale, his voice feeble. He had been a hearty, forceful man. I had never heard him plead.
“I wondered if you’d like to drive me up to Arcadia, maybe out to Punta Rassa, just around to some of the old places so I can see them again.”
I didn’t know he was dying, but he did. He wanted to see some of the old places one last time.
“I can’t, Daddy. I have to work on my book. I just can’t. I don’t have time.”
I see the pain in his face, his struggle up from the chair. “Well, okay, Cindy.” He moves weakly with the help of his cane to the door. I must have closed the door behind him as soon as he stepped out.
Lying in bed, in the dark of the night, my heart pounding, I see him getting into the car and having to rest a minute before he inserts the key in the ignition looking at the closed door his heart gone because a door shut is final and nothing is left but the death he is going to alone and he starts the car and backs with an effort out of the drive and drives himself to Arcadia his chest hollow eyes blinded with the realization of loss the finality of it and the effort is too much he almost doesn’t get home and he never gets out to Punta Rassa and three days later he is dead and I can lie awake at night revolving forever through the space-time continuum crying, “Daddy Daddy Daddy” and he will still be sitting in the chair across the room from me with the pain in his eyes because I have taken his heart out of his body saying no no no no no no no no no no no
People inevitably say, “Let go of it. You can’t change it.”
Yes, that’s the point.
I will be sitting at my breakfast table in sunshine, sorting the week’s portions of supplements and all the while I am seeing him sitting in the chair across the living room from me, his hand on his cane, the pleading and the pain in his eyes. Because he is still there, don’t you see? And he never saw Punta Rassa again, don’t you see? My brother put him on a plane and he flew back to his death alone. He had had only the one afternoon left, the one pretty last day of his brief and tormented life and all he wanted was for me to drive him around and let him see his life again before he left it and I said no.