The question of how the Universe began is to me the biggest question of our lives. It is something that puzzles us, astounds us, makes us spend hours pondering, debating with people around, mostly pointlessly. Because we cannot answer this sitting in the drawing room. (Though it is strange that a question of that magnitude cannot be answered through field studies - the answer, if at all, will come out of a drawing board or a computer someday) It inevitably runs into the question of belief - whether God or a supreme being exists, one that made the grand design, or whether it all came into existence out of nowhere, through some yet undiscovered scientific phenomenon.
In his book The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking argues that time is a dimension similar to space, and therefore, there could be a point in time, before which time itself did not exist. Hence the question of what existed before the time Universe came into being is meaningless. Something similar to asking what is south of the south pole - at south pole, the world curves back. There is no more South. Seems a bit hard to grasp, this. I have not yet learned to treat time as a dimension, and even if I did, I would still expect something to fall beyond the zero point. The only way I can get my head around it is that the point at which universe came into being, the moment of the big bang, is also the moment the universe ended, and it is a circular cycle of Big-bang to expansion of universe, to its contraction until it is ready for the big bang again.
Which brings me back to the idea that the entire universe, and thus our complicated world with its complicated lives, are essentially all part of a big whole. We all got scattered in an explosion, and are now wandering to find our way back to the whole. But are we really looking to get back to the whole? Do we want to get condensed in a big ball, or go back to the tree and get rooted there?
All our lives, we try to find our own identities. The tiny adults already start feeling the pressure of becoming as different as possible from their parents, to spring out from the root. Which youth is not rebellious or not miserable, and happy to be identified with his/her parents? When we find someone identical, do we rush to embrace him/her, or do we feel threatened, and like Saramago’s Tertuliano go on to kill the doppleganger? Doesn’t the source of our existential angst lie in the truth that we are all same, and essentially mere fragments of a dense ball of matter? That we are so minuscule that the whole will carry right on without us?
In Arthur C Clarke’s fantastic story Childhood’s End - he imagines the time when the whole comes calling and wants to claim its children. There is unification on large scale, until entire humanity dissolves into a larger whole. It is a violent tale, for this homogenisation is not painless. It is an apocalypse of a much larger magnitude, because it takes away the arrogant individuality created over hundreds of years. While we anxiously search for where we came from, do we really want to return there? I suppose not. There is something which constantly keeps us seeking outward, and the only reason we continue to seek the origin of the Universe is because we find it hard to comprehend that it may pull us more in rather than out.
If we solve this mystery, would we have become successful, or would we have broken the most wonderful illusions that keep us alive?