Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Deus absconditus

OK, we live in a universe of 100 billion galaxies, at least, and that fact -- as facty as these things get -- should smack us down when we start spouting off about the meaning of it all. And don't overlook the facty fact that we don’t even know what 96 percent of the universe is made of. Dark matter. Dark energy. Dark glass (as in "through a").

All I have to do is flip through any weekly issue of Science or Nature to be reminded of what I don't know, a sea of ignorance so wide and so deep I’ll never swim across, a glass so dark I’ll never see through.

Take this illustration from a research paper in the 11 October issue of Nature, called "Molecular machines governing exocytosis of synaptic vesicles." All I can tell you is this is a proposed scenario for what goes on at synaptic connections between nerve axons, a little schematic slide show of proteins and calcium ions docking the ammunition, priming the gun, and pulling the trigger -- bang, the neuron fires.

I love it! My nervous system is a web of myriad synaptic connections, all those infinitesimal fingers of God and Adam almost touching, and the signals leaping like lightning across the gaps, my whole body a storm of neuronal activity, my thoughts, my fingers moving on the keyboard, the tremor in my hand, the little scenario above played out over and over and over with no conscious participation on my part -- no, no, of course I am consciously directing my fingers to move -- but those proteins, those calcium ions, what do I have to do with that?

The more we learn, the deeper and more profound becomes our ignorance. I revel in my ignorance, the cloud of unknowing, the ever-darkening glass, the ever-more-distant absconded god. Depressing? Not at all. What is depressing is certainty, knowing all the answers, living in a world of dogmatic Sundays. I'm a weekday sort of guy, every day, every object, every synapse, a well of mystery. Bring it on! More and more knowledge! More and more revelations of what we do not know.