POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE 12
It’s been odd weather of late. May struggles to present itself as nearly summer, rather like a long dreamed of or fancied lover who turns out on re-acquaintance to be not quite as remembered. May, despite sunny moments has been in general a little colder, less reliable and more windy than hoped for. The first two could well be true of lovers, but one hopes not the third. As my friend Nick the builder says ‘you can get pills for that’.
Overall though there are enough dry periods to get our farmers out in the field mowing and raking and so forth. This means that The Old Doom Bar is pretty quiet at cocktail time. So it was in reflective mood that, having shared a few remarks of a Gogglebox sort with mine host, I fell to thinking about the universe over a glass of something helpful.
The BBC has been running a little series of 15 minute shorts called The Quiet Zone. At mid-day during the week of 19th May I caught a couple of pieces about a genuinely amazing radio telescope in the Allegheny Mountains. Apart from being able to detect the energy in a single falling snowflake it has recorded the conception and birth of the Universe in its first milliseconds after the ‘Big Bang’. I shared this information with John behind the bar.
He grunted derisively: ‘The only big bang I know about is the one I had with Tracey Hopkins and it landed me with the twins’. Then he added with a smile, ‘I don’t suppose they spotted that one up along.’ This in reference to our local and very visible listening station outpost of the MoD and (it is rumoured) GCHQ.
It struck me that the ‘Big Bang’ is not only a description of the explosive origins of the universe but more than just a jokey paradigm of the human orgasm and very often the process by which life of all sorts is created through fertilisation. Sometimes plants and animals explode as it were to release and distribute sperms or seeds. At other times the process is more secretive, such as bees and pollination of plants but from the always over supply of generative material will come life where one seed, one egg, will respond with its own tiny explosion of potential.
As the universe expands are we, on our little planet still transiting some cosmic birth canal, or have we been expelled like seedlings into the mulch of a gaseous and infinite Miracle-Grobag? Since our sphere of existence has clearly evolved and coalesced since that first moment we can assume we are not merely the by-product of creative onanism and cyclical fertility, gone to waste in the tissues or prophylaxes of the infinite.
Among the myriad traditions of creation and the origins of life as we know it, there are in most cases at least two recurring common ideas. First, that ‘in the beginning’ there was chaos and/or nothingness; second that varying and usually conflicted and conflicting combinations of egocentric gods and goddesses, solo or in tandem, produced a sequence of progeny who became our rulers and ultimately ourselves.
As we repeatedly strive to recreate our societies and ourselves, we also rehearse the myths of our beginning. Though the link between sex and death is profound, in daily life it is too often cruel and banal. The act of sex is obviously not, as Andrea Dworkin argued, always a rape. It is, however, a human act that is full of passion, and one we deeply desire to express our need for connection and a sense of being; however recreational and casually pleasing, it retains symbolically an echo of our creation at its core.
The Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope in the Allegheny Mountains is in the National Radio Quiet Zone. It is the largest moveable radio telescope in the world. It is threatened with closure du to budget problems.