Made to wonder: string theory and the resurrection

String theory and the Resurrection

I was listening to a podcast the other day, an interview with a physicist who was explaining the holographic principle. Based on string theory, one of the concepts is that our lived reality is two-dimensional data expressed in three dimensions. In other words, reality is a hologram.

It made me think about dimensions in general. If two dimensions can express three, and it’s generally accepted that we inhabit four dimensions (the fourth being time), what would 5D* projection mean? Because I’m convinced the material world isn’t all there is to existence.

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Image credit: Greg Rakozy.

As a person of faith, I believe we exist in more than four dimensions. But for most people – Christians, followers of other faiths and those of no faith alike – our active engagement in the fifth is limited.

This Easter I was reminded that the Resurrection invites us to walk beyond the four dimensions and live a bigger, richer reality.

Resurrection is more than a fancy way to say “coming back from the dead”. Jesus wasn’t resuscitated the same way others before and after him were. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be a big deal – I mean, Lazarus was dead for longer (see John 11:39).

The whole point is that Jesus rose from the dead never to die again. He passed from death into life eternal, into a superior dimension. He ate and drank and talked; he had scars in his hands and feet. But he also walked through walls and ascended into heaven. He’d overcome the world, and death.

And in so doing, he united the temporal and the eternal. If the Incarnation brought eternity down to earth, the Resurrection is the bridge that makes that reality available to us. In fact, if we believe in Jesus – in his death and his resurrection, in new life – this is the reality we should be living.

This blows my mind. It fills me with wonder.

Wanderlust vs wonderlust

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Image credit: Almos Bechtold.

This Easter, I saw more clearly than ever how I hunger and thirst for wonder. I need this – to marvel, to learn and understand a little more each time, and in so doing become increasingly conscious of all I don’t know. I need to live right up against the frontiers of what’s possible, not within a small safe circle of certainty.

To that extent I do understand why scientists get excited about science. And I suspect that’s a big reason we travel. Sure we might just enjoy having a break from work. But travel, crucially, gets us away not only geographically but existentially from the known, the everyday, the mundane.

In transposing ourselves to what is, in a way, an alternate reality, we see and experience things that invoke awe and wonder in us. There’s a magic in having gelato in Italy that the best Sydney gelato will not give you. A Moroccan bazaar is enchanting in a way that your local supermarket is not. Even sunset on a Caribbean island is distinct from sunset at home.

2017-04-28 Day 5b Mt Amos and Wineglass Bay 33
I didn’t have to go far to be filled with wonder at the summit of Mt Amos, overlooking Wineglass Bay in Tasmania.

I have said often that I resist comfort. Ironically, it kinda makes me uncomfortable. What bothers me about comfort is not the specifics – I enjoy a good bed and someone else cooking for me, I enjoy not worrying about money, I enjoy feeling like a local (as much as I enjoy feeling exotic). In those respects I like security as much as the next person.

What I’m concerned about, though, is the self-reliance that stifles faith. Often we strive for security, stability, comfort. And what I fear is that comfort is the enemy of wonder.

Why adverb particles matter

It’s not that wonder is an obsolete word. We wonder about the weather, about the price of petrol, about what ridiculous thing Trump will say next. We might wonder in the sense of worrying over things, stressing about the uncertainty of the future. Or in a different sense we might be curious about people or about the universe.

But wondering ABOUT something is not the same as wondering AT something.

We need to pause occasionally and wonder AT things. We need to regularly marvel at the miracle of life and Creation.

Something in us wants to, was made to wonder – and business has swooped right in to meet and fuel that demand. That’s why marketing is all about experiences now – CX, UX and whatever other X follows. Travel as well as product advertising sells an experience. Going to a restaurant and to the movies is an experience. Festivals are an experience.

And y’know what, going to church can be just another experience in much the same way.

We consume experiences. We want that 5D hit. But none of these products allows us to live in five dimensions because they’re poor attempts at 5D projection. They’re an augmented reality gimmick rather than a renovated reality.

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Image credit: Anna Kolosyuk.

So I guess what I’m saying is that we should take another look at the Resurrection. Because maybe we’re still seeing an empty tomb and not the fullness of life. Maybe at most we see Easter as disrupting the four dimensions but we haven’t let that disrupt our lives. We haven’t had the will to wonder, and be transformed.

*


*Note: I’m using 5D/fifth dimension essentially as a shorthand for reality beyond scientific explanation. Physics does conceive of and explore the possibility of a fifth dimension from a far more mathematical perspective. Some new age beliefs also talk about the fifth dimension in a totally different sense.

More on the holographic principle:

Header image: Annie Spratt.

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