The Magic of Easter – crosses, eggs, and turtles all the way down

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 making new ones.

The double spiral dance of life

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, whilst the other subdues the demon Apasmara or Muyalaka who stands for ignorance and evil – heady stuff.

Shiva dancing at CERN

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.

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 prevent witches from entering the house.

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.

Twisted noodles looking like string

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.


Your theory that the sun is the centre of the solar system, and the earth is a ball which rotates around it has a very convincing ring to it, Mr. James, but it’s wrong. I’ve got a better theory,” said the little old lady.

And what is that, madam?” inquired James politely.

That we live on a crust of earth which is on the back of a giant turtle.”

Not wishing to demolish this absurd little theory by bringing to bear the masses of scientific evidence he had at his command, James decided to gently dissuade his opponent by making her see some of the inadequacies of her position.

If your theory is correct, madam,” he asked, “what does this turtle stand on?”

You’re a very clever man, Mr. James, and that’s a very good question,” replied the little old lady, “but I have an answer to it. And it’s this: The first turtle stands on the back of a second, far larger, turtle, who stands directly under him.”

But what does this second turtle stand on?” James patiently.

To this, the little old lady crowed triumphantly,

It’s no use, Mr. James—it’s turtles all the way down.


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