PARALLELS

How It All Unfolds



As above so below: This is a famous saying which crops up in a couple of Eastern philosophical systems. I am sure that many of my readers are familiar with the phrase. Not only above and below, but everywhere can you find surprising similarities in function or structure or other qualities. This fact is the main burden of the songs (in prose, why not?) in this book. Brief mention will be made of an interesting example as an introduction, and the rest will be elaborated upon as we proceed at a calm, leisurely pace.

The most interesting, unmissable similarity for what is happening above being (faithfully?) reflected below is this one. Going ‘below’ dives into the depths of matter, says the atom. Soaring ‘above’ goes up to the solar system. The meaning is obvious to any student of science at the school level. Let us fill up the dotted lines anyway. In the standard model for the structure of an atom, there is a center called nucleus deep, deep inside. Around this nucleus, electrons orbit continuously at various distances. This is astonishingly similar to the structure and functioning of the solar system! Replace the nucleus with the sun, and the electrons with the planets. Just as the planets unceasingly orbit around the sun, (being held in its grip) electrons orbit around the nucleus (being held in its grip).

Along somewhat similar lines, we see that our earth spins on its axis. Looks like everything spins everywhere! (Just a wee bit of poetic exaggeration, only a tiny bit.) Go below once again. Science buffs speak nonchalantly of the spin of electrons and other particles as a matter of routine. It does not much matter here if their definition of spin and yours (and ours) do not match fully. A spin is a spin. (Every cricket player agrees with that. Baseball players agree with that, though may call it a curve.) From the depths of the atom, come up to the familiar surface. A gyroscope spins, often at fantastic speeds; there are a good many gadgets and technical instruments which utilize that principle of the gyroscope. Rise up, as before, to greater heights into space itself. We and our solar system are a part (tiny) of the great Milky Way galaxy. The galaxy also is spinning, astronomers assure us. So do many galaxies, neutron star-couples, and so on. If you observe the range from that of the electrons to the locations (and sizes) of the galaxies, it is mindboggling. (An irreverent, if not irrelevant comment by The Brat, whom you are going to meet quite often in these mental peregrinations. Brat enquires with false sympathy, “Does your head reel?” and then proceeds without waiting for a retort, “That reminds me of vertigo. It is a kind of spin. Either physical or mental or neurological. It is a spin and spinning exhibits are not only up there in the skies, but inside our skulls too!” Better be acquainted with him.) We reluctantly have to admit that he has got a point there.

Strings: Strings hold up or keep things from falling down. That clothesline in your backyard is an everyday example. Strings bring things together. Look at a garland of flowers or a necklace. Strings can hold things in check and can manipulate them too. You only have to look at a harness and witness a puppet show. Strings can vibrate and give out music. (Quiz: How many stringed musical instruments can you name? Hurdy-gurdy, bouzouki, rebab, komuz, ghaychak, huobosi…) Already a parallel here: the poet insists that hearts too have strings and can be pulled to induce a variety of emotions.

Recall that a person in a tight emotional condition is said to be highly strung, or keyed up. How apt the description is!

Strings hold things in check. That is what the harness does to the horse. That is what the string does to the paper kite rising and falling and dancing in the sky.

Jump to another metaphor. People wielding power control those under them by pulling the proper strings.

In quite a different context, if the strings are made of metal (usually copper or silver), they can be used to carry electricity and the receiving machine can be controlled from a distance, through push-buttons and dials.

Do not underestimate those strings. We saw above that properly activated, they can enact an enchanting puppet drama out of inanimate objects. They can also–rhetorically–induce or control emotions in living beings. There is more. Nature enjoys playing many kinds of games (we are going to repeat this on every possible occasion; better brace yourself), play on words also being one of them. Okay, come back to that word and imagine long strings embracing each other, going around and around. There, you have the DNA strands entwined in an intimate embrace, the very basis of all living forms.

The intimate embrace of the DNA strands is reflected in other ways in life forms and our lives. That embrace represents love, support, and inseparability (parallels, parallels everywhere) acting across the full stretch of Life itself. Witness the tight embraces of lovers all over the world, and nod your head in sympathetic agreement. It happens not only among creatures (snakes do it), but also among creepers! Go to your backyard and watch that tender creeper going up and around the tree trunk. What Nature is doing there, it is doing here and elsewhere also! (This too, is the burden of our pet song, and the lines will be sung again and again across these pages. Brace yourself.)

Up there we had a peep at the level of the basis of life. The same parallel phenomenon is hidden still deeper, at the level of the creation of the universe itself. We need not look askance at the mystics and theosophists for an answer. Scientists themselves are here to encourage us. It is the String Theory we are talking about. (A whisper; notice the play on the word String. We did not make it up–Nature did it!) The topic is very arcane and crammed with lots of the toughest mathematics. Better leave the details to the boffins, geeks, and nerds. Put in plain words, the String Theory posits that the creation of the world occurs due to the vibrations of strings in many dimensions. Hectic research has been going on on this hot topic and most scientists are confident that the String Theory will offer the final solution to everything in the universe. For our purpose, the metaphor of the String is enough.

What was offered above is an appetizer for an elaborate feast to come. You can pick on any concept, idea, fancy, natural phenomenon, scientific law, even words from the dictionary, and then you will be surprised to see that those ideas have analogies in diverse fields. That is not really much of a surprise if you see that all things in the universe are richly interconnected. This is the main menu, a gist so to say, of this book. We will leisurely examine whatever comes into our reach, link it up with the next item or perhaps with another one far down the list and come back, and so on. There is no particular preference or sequence. To say in another metaphor, this is like a walk in an immense park with innumerable roads and crossroads, and roundabouts. The visitor can saunter as (s)he likes, where (s)he wills.