The Tree, Decay, and a Fifth Force of Nature

We have this unquenchable desire to gather information. I seem to remember something about a tree and some fruit? As Image-bearers we have the capacity to comprehend and the spirit to desire it. I believe God knew that Adam and Eve would want to have the knowledge eating the fruit would bring, but also knew that as finite beings we would be unable to fully grasp and consequently abuse what knowledge we might contain. Therein, it would seem the curse lay.
            One subject under discussion among physicists surrounds the question of an elusive “fifth force” of nature. Basically, there are two elementary particles: quarks and leptons. The first bind together in heavier groupings called neutrons and protons, the latter are lighter particles—electrons and neutrinos—and can move freely. Four forces affect all of these. Two, however, we are most familiar with: gravity, most understand all too well, and electromagnetism, the force that binds atoms together. “The thinking that happens inside your brain can be traced to chemical signals passing between neurons, and those chemicals move the way they do because of electromagnetism.”[1]This information alone is enough to boggle the mind (so to speak).
            The remaining two forces are the strong and weak nuclear forces. The strong binds quarks into protons and neutrons to construct atomic nuclei. The weak is nearly undetectable except for its effect: when a single neutron is isolated from any proton it will decay. A former doctoral supervisor of mine cautioned me not to make spiritual inferences from physics or other physical sciences. It is nearly impossible for me not to find one here, though! At the absolute infinitesimally fundamental element of all matter, the weakest force of nature known to all of science can affect a most hideous phenomenon: decay. And, its modus operandi? Isolate the particle.
            While it is plain that humankind has never been so connected via “social networks” and other digital links, we have never been physically and emotionally so isolated as now. Further, it is not as if we have administered a hermit’s vow upon ourselves (most of us, at any rate). It has just happened…passively…. With increased technology we can accomplish so much. There is no need to actually call—just text. Why should I stop by if I can send you an email? You want to see how big my children have become?—I’ll post a picture on Facebook. No force has separated us except that of lethargy. It is just so much easier, that path of least resistance. That weakest force that is barely a force separates me from another, my proton, and I find myself in decay. Is it any wonder that our society seems so senseless today? How do we let our friends get pulled further into addictions, our leaders still greater deceptions? Why do we do nothing about the insanity that is our economy (besides complain)? Why are we just getting used to things as they are and remark that it has always been so? This, despite the evidence that it has not, but how much easier it is just to believe it.
            Historians have already dubbed our current location in history as the information age. We have nearly unlimited capacity to access whatever information we wish to acquire. Technology has advanced to such a degree that we can sequence DNA or watch neuronal activity real-time in the brain, receive instant updates on an uprising in the Middle East or calculate the expansion rate of the nearest black hole. Yet, none of this knowledge serves to bring us closer to one another. In fact, I would argue it is the essence of the 4th force of nature, the weakest nuclear force that by separating from the other serves to bring about decay. Perhaps this so-called fifth force that physicists are so eager to discover resides in the human will, the spirit of humankind that, from the most basic of electrons is compelled to be attracted, connected. Perhaps some of us can pull away from that almost insatiable urge to devour knowledge, set aside our devices that divide us and just be. That to do so would create the inertia to compel still more people to do the same: to just be. Be in the presence of one another. Be in the presence of God. Be in the presence of God with each other. And, know….
Be still and know.


[1]Sean Carroll. “Out There,” Discover Magazine, November 2011, 34.

One thought on “The Tree, Decay, and a Fifth Force of Nature

  1. "Entropy, I'm not half the man I used to be…" Yes! makes me think of Louis C.K. and his rant on Twitter (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSSDeesUUsU). You need to do a book and maybe call it "Be"!Also makes me think of "Love is the Seventh Wave" by Sting and the connection between Love and to Be in presence with God and with others. They connect. Maybe this 5th force of nature is also love!At the still point of destructionAt the centre of the furyAll the angels, all the devilsAll around us can't you seeThere is a deeper wave than thisRising in the landThere is a deeper wave than thisNothing will withstand…

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