Friday, December 19, 2008

Knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend

There is that special moment on the beach each morning when the Sun explodes out of the sea and the sky lights up in the colors of flame. It is easy then to imagine how those who lived on the shores of the Aegean Sea came to the conclusion that the world was made of earth, water, air and fire.

Four elements that in their mixing gave us cold/wet, cold/dry, hot/wet, hot/dry, and, by extension, all the other qualities and compounds of existence, including our own bodies with their various humours. It was an ingenious concept and served well for two thousand years.

As it turned out, the elements of the world are not four, but ninety-two. Still, a smallish number will serve me well on the beach at sunrise. Hydrogen for the Sun. Nitrogen and oxygen for the air. Hydrogen and oxygen for the water (ok, add some sodium and chlorine for the salt). Calcium, carbon and oxygen for the sand. And with these elements you also have the better part of me. So the Greeks in their search for simplicity were not so far off the mark.

And now we wait for the Large Hadron Collider to crank up and take us even deeper into the fundamental building blocks of matter, even close to the stark simplicity of the creation when a universe exploded into existence as even now the Sun explodes from the sea, furious and favorable, and I stop in my tracks, dig my toes into the sand against the wind-blown spray, and recite "Batter my heart four-elemented God...and bend your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new."