Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Universe, and everything

It was gratifying to listen to Janna Levin speak about her interpretation of the universe today on Chicago Public Radio. She and I share a belief system, although she expresses the ideas more beautifully and convincingly than I. For me, the miracle of the cosmos is that it can be described precisely in mathematical terms, and every day more of it is measured and understood in this way. The mystery and joy is in the why, especially if one is not inclined to attribute it to god.
Thinking back on it, this is how I have always felt, though I couldn't articulate my thoughts until I got the vocabulary by being married to a (non-religious) physicist. In spite of my interest in his work, I don't think I ever heard him talk about, maybe because he never actually felt, the beauty of mathematics in this particular way.
My parents were avowed atheists. My mother was mostly benign about it, and had not a spiritual bone in her body. My father was assertively anti-religion. He considered any kind of spirituality a symptom of religiosity and a serious character flaw. Perhaps if they had a greater understanding of mathematics (though unusually accomplished people, both were nincompoops even at arithmetic), their lives, and so also mine, would have been very different.

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