I find Easter a bit confusing.
Christ’s resurrection to life eternal is for many a leap of faith too far, most famously the Jews with their harsh but straightforward Old Testament. And though the crosses on the buns are an obvious reference, the eggs and rabbits point to earlier pagan celebrations of fecundity more than some magical victory over death.
I just know that after the long, cold, dark Winter nights the return of life to the countryside is as welcome as the warmth and longer days. Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, birth, growth, decay, death, the enduring cycles that give our lives context and perspective.
Some would argue that our purpose is to simply pass on our genes to the following generations, to hand our data down through the unbroken chain that connects us to the first replicating molecules. I don’t know, but I’d like to think there’s more to it, that we’re also about keeping old stories alive and creating new ones.
In 2004 the Indian Government gave a statue of the dancing Shiva to CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research. Why Shiva?, well in Hinduism he dances two forms Lasya and Tandava, which respectively celebrate creation and destruction. As at Cern, he’s often depicted with a raised leg poised to stamp down and annihilate creation, whilst the other subdues the demon Apasmara or Muyalaka, the demon of ignorance and evil – heady, heavy stuff.
The purpose of Shiva’s dance is to release souls from the snare of ignorance and illusion. You can see how it was an apt choice for CERN’s mission of uncovering the fundamental nature of reality by smashing it to bits in the Large Hadron Collider.
Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, Schrodinger, all subdued Apasmara to expand the frontiers of our understanding, and isn’t it inevitable that others will follow, that in a few hundred years what we now believe will seem as preposterous as that which our ancestors did? After all it wasn’t that long ago that people were putting children’s shoes up their chimneys to ward off witches.
Rather than argue a particular doctrine or belief it makes sense to me to take a more eclectic approach where religion and science offer different but equally valid perspectives. Of course rationalism, scepticism and empiricism are useful, as are faith, irony, art, humility and humour. But one thing I’m certain of, our limited human senses and cognition afford a very, very limited view and understanding.
Here’s one to twist the noodle –
According to String theory there are many universes (multiverses) that are regularly created and annihilated (maybe in time to the beat of Shiva’s stamping foot). Which, if so, might mean ours exists across something like an expanding bubble (for which there is some evidence), contained within another bubble universe and that within ours, countless more exist. That model would entail possibly endless nested realities. Going further down the rabbit hole, string theory suggests there are 8 other dimensions besides the four we’re familiar with, the first one of which being the single dimension of strings.
Few can grasp the insights into physics and cosmology gained during the early years of the twentieth century, let alone the last hundred e.g. gravity isn’t a force. We’re probably not even smart enough to realise how dumb we are. That’s why I like stories, they’re more accessible than equations and their wisdom seems just as valid.