The Theory of Everything – The Question Marker
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Annals of Philosophy

The Theory of Everything

“I have tried to understand this place, this strange place, and I do not understand it. I know you do not, too.”

Photo Credit: Maryland Science Centre

Author’s Note: I wrote this just before turning 22, during a severe existential crisis.

Dear Elizabeth,

1.

I know where I am going, but I do not know from where to start. I have these images swirling in my head, like bees, but I do not know how to put them into words. This is true. But my job is not to complain. Where I come from, it is said that when a man does not know where he is going to, he turns to strangers and ask questions about the past. But strangers, as they are called, do not hold salvation in their palms. A stranger cannot tell you where you come from. He can only listen, and empathise and try to reason with you. He can only offer comfort. But you know, as I know, that comfort lies only in the hands of Father, the one who told you to go and who is waiting to receive you.

There are things we both know that are true but which we cannot speak about. It is not because we are afraid. It is because we live in a strange world, where people hold a piece of plastic to communicate, where men huddle themselves inside metals to fly, where love cannot be sliced and ate for dinner. I have tried to understand this place, this strange place, and I do not understand it. I know you do not, too. Our strangeness is mutual and we cannot wait to go back home. This, too, is true.

But what is not true, of course, is the idea that we have no beginning. The strangers say we rose from beneath the earth. But that is a strange saying. How can we, who rule the skies, be compared to the creeping things of life? This is outrageous, a slander so great that it could slap the earth from orbit. But we say nothing. Not because we are fools, but because we are men of patience and honour. We do not gorge ourselves on innocent blood. We do not start wars to sue for peace. We wait and pray to the gods. We know that we have done nothing wrong and that justice will be served in the morning. We wait, like sheep.

2.

It is not my intention to waste words, so I will move to the purpose of my writing, which is to present to you a theory that ties together everything we know about the observable universe, the conclusion of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

To be clear, this theory is built on the discoveries of men driven by a kind of demonic curiosity about the universe. Since I was a little boy, I have been drawn to study the life and works of history’s finest minds, from Socrates to Darwin to Newton. This is the culmination of their desires, the fulfilment of their grandest dreams: to catch a glimpse of God while still a man.

To be clearer, however, this theory has nothing to do with the fantastical claims of Religion. I know that we have argued about God forever. It is the subject that brought us together, and it is how I first understood the world. But my Christianity was only a tool in unlocking the secrets of this miracle we call life. To say that someone is a Christian is not to say that they know God. Jesus, on which Christianity is built, was not even a Christian. And God, whom we have no record of, is no respecter of persons or things. 

3.

There are two ways to know the world: logic and imagination. Logic, here, means consistency, while imagination refers to inconsistency. In this spirit, it will of course be very stupid for someone living in the 21st century to say their knowledge of the world is entirely based on either logic or imagination. But, as you must have noticed, no one believes that there are things unseen, if it is inconsistent with their experience. Even a mad-man, roaming the streets in tattered rags, knows that he is logical, that he is right.

I do not intend to dwell into the realm of philosophy, since this theory is presented as a scientific fact. But I cannot resist the pleasure of writing about Descartes, a man who has been described as the father of Modern Philosophy. His proposition was simple: I think, therefore I am. It was good reasoning from a brilliant mind and his original contributions to mathematics and philosophy prove that. But the implication of such a statement, of course, is that logic is the only way to know the world. Any logical person knows this is nonsense. There is nothing, on the surface, consistent with things like electricity or the nature of light. But modern physics has shown us there is. It might look inconsistent, but it is consistent, because it follows certain laws. The problem with people who are blind students of Descartes’ proposition is that they think they have an independent mind. No one does, because we are all slaves of language. It is not that language limits thought, but it limits the expression of thought. For example, it is one thing to know something is true, and it is another thing to be able to communicate that truth. If I cannot express what I know as true, does that mean it is not true?

  And there are those who say truth is subjective. But my objective, here, is not to debate irrelevancies. To avoid confusion, we will stick to certain rules about what reality is.

The first rule is that reality is what we can experience with our five senses and what we cannot. The second rule is that the only way to know reality is through logic. Logic, I am inclined to repeat, means consistency. I do not mean logic in a mathematical sense. Mathematics is not always about precision. And the goal of this theory is to explain the universe as a consistent entity, as a precise machine.

So we arrive at the mouth of the beast, armed with the right tools. Remember, my job is not to convince you of anything. No one convinces a man of the laws of motion or gravity. It is just there. My job is to communicate a certain understanding. And this is the hardest of tasks, since most people do not seek understanding but utility. But I know that you seek the former, even if just for fun. This is why I have taken pains to write to you on this subject, again.

4.

To express the Theory of Everything as a mathematical equation is not a difficult thing. In fact, it is as simple as saying:

1 + 1 = 2
2 = 1 + 1

The problem with this equation, of course, is that different people will interpret it in different ways, even though it means just one thing. This is why this theory is difficult to communicate. It is one thing, but appears differently to most people. I will give an analogy to illustrate my point.

If you tell the average man that there is only one thing (electricity) inside a computer, he will find it difficult to believe you. Though you are telling the truth, but is that the only truth about a computer? No. For a computer to work, there are tons of things that must happen that has nothing to do with electricity. But, the truth-value of your original statement lies in the idea that all those other things do not matter if there is no electricity.

Now, let us come to computer logic. We know that there is just one thing that powers a computer, but there are two things that make a computer look like it has magical powers: the idea of 0 and 1. If we say that electricity is the only thing inside a computer, we can then say that 0 and 1 is the fundamental principle upon which all computers are built. That is, we take electricity and we channel it through 0 and 1, and then we have a computer.

For the uninitiated, this might sound like a good explanation for how computers work, but it does not even put a dent on the monstrosity that is Computer Knowledge. To know about electricity and the principle of on and off switches is to know about computers, but it does not mean you are a computer expert or that you know everything about how computers work.

So, you can see that we have two things at play here: knowledge and ignorance.  The thing is not that you do not know, it is that you do not know everything. But, not to worry. This is why this theory is important. Like a calculator, it helps you to be ignorant of so many things and, yet, know everything.

5.

I am tempted to draw diagrams and write equations, but I won’t. The only way to understand and test this kind of theory is to calculate it in your head. The moment I write it down, I have opened it to abuse. But what I can do, like we do in mathematics, is to use the theory to solve problems in a way that shows consistency. For example, if I want to teach you algebra, I do not start by explaining the rules to you. I work some problems for you to see, you work some problems copying my approach, you make mistakes, I correct you, you work more problems, you get stuck on some and come to me for help and watch me do some magic, you work more problems, you practice and practice, and then you have an understanding of how algebra works and begin to perform your own magic. This is how most people learn mathematics, and it is the same way we will both learn about the Theory of Everything.

Our first question is this: Attempt to solve the question of how the universe began, using the Theory of Everything?

6.

Ever since man could wonder, we have looked to the skies, to nature, and asked a burning question: where did everything come from? I know that you have wondered about this too and have concluded that there must be a creator, a divine power that holds everything together. This is why I have started with this particular question, so you can see the workings of the theory at its finest.

There are two popular approaches to answering this kind of question: the Scientific and Religious. Both of these approaches make use of logic and imagination to make their case and both have different levels of success. So, why not mix it up and use logic as a sieve, to see if we can build a better and more coherent story? To do that, we will need two things: a Time Machine and a human brain.

Since we do not have access to wormholes, we have to be creative in choosing our Time Machine. An ancient book is our best bet and I am going for the bible, for obvious reasons. 

In this context, we do not view the bible as a religious text. We view it as a historical document that tells the story of a particular race in its first part, and the story of a religious movement in its second part. Our task is to draw a logical thread through the entire text, question its narratives, and force it to bear us new perspectives.

7.

If you are a student of history, it is not hard to realise that Solomon was right when he said, ‘There is nothing new under the earth’. History is a circle. It keeps revolving with no end in sight. It is the same when attempting to trace the history of the universe. The only difference is that some say the circle has always existed and has no end, while others say the circle has a beginning and will soon be completed. None of this is our concern though. But it is important to keep in mind that there is nothing new under the sun, not even the Theory of Everything.

8.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. This is not an idea peculiar to the Old Testament. Other cultures, including the one I was born into, have similar narratives: that in the beginning there was a God and he started this entire thing. Science has no answer to this. Sure, there are quite a few physical theories that claim to describe how the universe started, but none of them has been successful in ruling out the idea of a God.

The Bible says that it took God 6 days to complete creation, before resting on the 7th day. Noting that modern science puts the age of the universe to something close to 14 billion years, theologians are quick to point out that the writer of Genesis never really meant 7 days, as in the way we calculate it today. This is a sensible argument. One of the trickiest things to understand in the physical universe is time. Modern physics teaches us that time is like a place. Your clock does not actually tell time. It is simply a machine designed to track the movement of the earth around the sun. You can read up on these things, but the point is, for a God outside of time, 7 billion years could feel like 7 seconds, like just another drop in his vast sea of universes.

This brings us to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, which suggests that all life has a common origin. It is naive to ignore the facts of this theory. But evolution does not prove that there is no God. Instead, it tells us that there is an underlying process that took place for life to happen. And unless one is looking for mischief, there is little in Genesis 1 to suggest otherwise. Remember that the book was not written as a science text, but as a record of a people’s history. Science is probably looking at the whole thing linearly, while Genesis took a satellite snapshot. At this point the side on which you are, whether science or religion, is irrelevant.  As you will come to see, the evolution debate has nothing to do with whether God exists or not. It has to do with something else: fear.

9.

From all that was written in 8, we can now provide an answer to our first question. Something started the universe and made it what it is today. 

No, do not think I am playing with you, because I know that’s not new knowledge to you. You already know that something started the universe. But when we argue about God, we are not arguing about the knowledge of his existence, we are arguing about the nature of his existence. You say that God is good, and if someone else says that God is bad, you instinctively know that they do not know what they are talking about. Or do they? But it doesn’t really matter anyway, because you know, deep down in your heart, that God is good and nothing else.

This will lead us to our next question. Using the Theory of Everything, attempt to evaluate whether the Something that started the universe is good?

10.

This is exactly where our problems begin, because we all have different ideas of good. For example, I think that it is not good to kill a fellow human being. But is it really not good? What makes it not good? When is it not good? Can it ever be good to kill a fellow human being? These kinds of questions have occupied history’s finest minds for centuries. But we will solve it, not in a philosophical manner, but with logic.

When we are faced with a difficult question in mathematics, we are told to think outside the box. But what does this really mean? Very simple. Every mathematics question is asked within the confines of a box, a set of rules. But no one is actually telling you to go outside that box, those set of rules; they are simply saying you should ask questions, not about the box itself, but about the question in front of you.

Don’t get lost at this point. 

What I actually mean is that, in mathematics, we have rules. These rules have nothing to do with reality, but they help us to understand reality. So when we say think outside the box in trying to solve a mathematics problem, no one is saying you should go to the rules in, say Linguistics, to solve the problem. What they are saying is look at this particular question and ask different questions about it. For example, say I am given this equation (x +  5 = 25) and asked to find the value of x. Now, let’s assume that I know nothing about simple equations. All I know is how to add and subtract numbers. How do I go about solving this? By thinking outside the box, by asking different questions about the question.

This is not to say, of course, that asking questions is the only way to solve this particular equation. If you present this equation to a Mathematics Professor, he does not even have to think to answer it. In fact, some might see it as an insult.

So, armed with that understanding, let us return to our problem about the goodness of God, this Something that started the universe. However, note that to acknowledge that the something has a beginning is to acknowledge that there was something before the beginning. For example, we can represent it as 0, 1. But we cannot represent it as 1,0. 

Of course, I speak to you like I would a child, even though you are my big sister. But my goal is not to confuse you, but to ensure that we are on the same page. Because when we stop being on the same page, I don’t want my pride to be responsible.

11.

Now, the universe is our box. To understand the nature of the something that initiated the universe, we have to look within the box. Of course, I do not imagine that there is anyone who can think of a world outside spacetime. But, think about it, what could be at the edge of space? Does space even have an end? What about time? If there was anything outside spacetime, what would it look like? Physicists have conjured theories about a multiverse, billions and billions of them. But it’s still the same thing. An infinite machine.

The curious thing about this box, however, is its contradictory nature, chaos and order. But contradiction is in human observation. It says nothing about the universe itself, only how we see it. 

This is why we cannot say that God is good and not imply that he is evil. The language fails itself at this junction. God cannot be good and not be evil. To say otherwise is to deviate from our agreed-upon logic, leave our box and start chasing nothing.

Of course, one can say that God is above good and evil. In fact, that’s how the Bible presents him. He is the one who does what he likes and no one can question him. He pulls down and lifts up. He delivers and destroys. This particular narrative sounds tempting. But let me quickly show you something.

12.

We remember differently. If there’s anything you will learn about history, let it be this one, that history has nothing to do with the truth, but about the historian’s truth.

Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible, was a slave boy raised in an Egyptian Palace. But he grew up to be a freedom fighter, some sort of revolutionary. So when he set out to write those books, he did not set out to write the truth, but his people’s truth. We do not have the Egyptian’s version of what happened at the Red Sea. And that’s bad. Not for the Jews, but for people like you and I who would have wanted to know what made the Egyptians such devious souls.

I am also curious about the fact that the Egyptians were called magicians, while Moses was a miracle worker. And the idea that God hardened the heart of the wicked Pharaoh to purposely punish him. How would the Egyptians have responded to that narrative? What really changed Pharoah’s mind? Was God that desperate, so desperate that he could stoop so low to change a man’s mind, just to achieve destruction? My questions have no end.

13.

Where I come from, when good things happen, we say God is on our side. When bad things happen, we say we have offended God and then look for ways to appease him. Because we know that God cannot be good or evil. He is not a man that he should need goodness. We also know that God cannot abandon us, because without him we have no life. We do not say that God is good, we say God is great, beyond understanding. We do not say that God is right, because he can never be wrong.

Like I have pointed out earlier, to say God is good is not wrong. But, if we say God is good, then we also mean he is evil. Our 0,1 idea of the universe must be consistent.

14.

I do not know what you are thinking now, but what I am thinking is this: if God cannot just be good, how do we know that certain things are good and some other things are evil. For example, I know that killing a man is wrong. What makes me think so? Do I have an inbuilt mechanism, like a conscience, that detects good, or is my idea of goodness influenced by the society in which I was raised? 

Before we answer this question, let us use the Theory of Everything to evaluate the life of one of history’s most significant figures, Jesus Christ.

We know almost nothing about Jesus except what is written in the first four books of the New Testament. But those four books are enough.

The reason why it is important to evaluate the life of Jesus is this—no matter who you are or what you think, you cannot ignore the fact that he made such a big impact. You can call him the Devil or God, but what you cannot call him is ordinary.

But let’s put what we know about him into perspective. Jesus did not leave a biography. All the books written about him were written years after he had died. And the honesty of these particular writers is plain. Although they believed in Jesus Christ, they were not writing to convert unbelievers. They wrote the books so that those who believed in Christ could have a record, a snapshot of what his time on earth must have looked like.

Now, Jesus was born a Jew, but he was not a Jew. There are people who like to think that Jesus’s story is peculiar. But there is nothing in the story that is much different from that of Moses. Think about it. Moses’ life was in danger as a kid. Jesus’ life was, too. Moses was a man of books. Jesus was, too. Moses performed miracles. Jesus did, too. In a way, we could say Moses was destroyed by his people and Jesus was, too. But the difference between these two men was the way they saw themselves. One said he was a prophet, the other said he was God.

15.

To ask whether Jesus was God or not, is to miss the whole point of this theory that I am trying to explain to you.

If you study the Gospels, you will realise that the likes of Jesus among the Jews was not new. He was a Prophet, a maverick, someone who did things other people could not do. But the Pharisees and Sadducees were not against Jesus because he could perform miracles. Who would not want another Moses, especially at a time when the Jews were under the rule of Rome? But they were against him because of how he saw himself, as equal to God.

But Jesus knew that he was God. He could say to this mountain, move and it will move. He could speak to things and they would obey him. He could do whatever he wanted to do. But, did he do whatever pleased him? Where did his laws come from? How did he know what was bad and what was good?

Let us start by rejecting the idea that Jesus came to abolish laws. I have come to fulfil them, he said. But he was a man who had no regard for Jewish law itself. His disciples did not wash their hands before eating. Let us also remove the idea that he wanted people to worship him or deify him. He washed the feet of his disciples. And if there was anything he wanted the people he loved (his disciples) to understand, if there was just one thing, it was that they should have faith in themselves. Jesus wanted them to have faith in him, so that they could have faith in themselves. Faith, here, means to stand and not be shaken. 

There is nothing spiritual or religious about faith. Jesus did not come to tell people how to pray or how to worship God or how to live their lives. If his life had any purpose, it was to spread the idea of the completeness of the individual, a different philosophy from that of the communal Jews. Okay, this paragraph has nothing to do with the theory. *Descends off pulpit*

16.

Now, back to morality. To say that one thing is good and the other bad without a context is nonsense. We have already established that nothing can be good without being bad, but morality is an attempt to separate good from bad. The moment you start to do that, you need laws, boxes that help you make this division.

We can deceive ourselves all we want and say some things are good while other things are bad. But people who do such things do so from a place of convenience, of power, of privilege. This was Jesus’s angst with the Pharisees and Sadducees. It was not because they led contradictory lives, but because they did so while expecting others not to. Brood of vipers, he called them. People who feed on the innocence of others.

Laws, morality, boxes, are necessary for human life, but the work of Christ, if there is anything like that, was to make you understand that you are above all these restrictions.

17.

I was going to skip writing about Paul. But how can one avoid Christianity’s most influential thinker?

Paul was a religious man and it is no surprise that his letters were the foundations upon which Christianity is built. If Jesus came to set men free, Paul’s job was to build a box through which humans could operate with that freedom. I am a student of Paul’s box myself. But I know, as he knew, that one must not be subject to the writings of mere men. If you are looking for the truth, look within.

18.

For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is one of Paul’s most memorable lines. But what interests me in the sentence are the last two words. A lot of Christians, including you, like to argue that what you believe is not a religion, that it is a ‘way of life’ or a different way of thinking.  But if I ask you to denounce Jesus Christ, you will know that I do not mean you well. But the problem with naming God is that he cannot be named. We have not invented the words, yet.

I suspect that Paul himself did not know that by naming Jesus Christ as the power and knowledge of God, he was creating a new religion. When you name something, you give it an identity. And if we can identify a thing, it becomes subject to use. But let me give you some context on why Paul, when he became born again, could never have thought otherwise.

The first thing you need to understand about Paul was that he was a man of logic, a teacher of the law. There are people who think that the Pharisees and the Sadducees were evil men. That’s only true if you are looking at it from Jesus’ viewpoint. But they were simply men who had been trained to understand the world through consistency. Paul was the same. He was not a dreamer or some sort of prophet. If it didn’t add up, he would not buy it.

So when he had his Damascus experience, his born again experience, he had to make sense of it somehow. He knew that something had changed about him and the only way to make sense of this extraordinary experience was to logicalise it, based on the predominant things on his mind, the persecution of those infidels preaching heresy. Everything he knew about the law, about the promise of a messiah, about how God’s ways are not our ways and how his thoughts are higher than ours, everything just made sense. He had always wondered about what drove those infidels. What gave them such boldness, such audacity, to continue to preach in the face of intense persecution? He did not understand it, but now he did and it made perfect sense.

You might ask me, if it made perfect sense to Paul, then does that not mean that the name Jesus Christ actually has some inherent power and meaning. This is where I am tempted to ask you to go find books that treat the way in which language shapes our reality. But I have a simpler answer. Paul, if you read his letters carefully, did not agree with Peter, the leader of those who thought Jesus’ message was only for the Jews. Paul rationalised that rejection by declaring that he was sent to the Gentiles, those who were not Jews. Note that Paul did not say that Peter was an evil person for rejecting him. No one who is born again thinks that way. But when he went out to preach to the g\Gentiles, he sold them, not the power of Christ, but his story of the Power of Christ.

I know that you are a woman of wisdom, full of light. I will advise that you read Paul’s letters from beginning to end and pay attention to the spirit of the words. I don’t know how to define spirit but you know what I mean. His real message was that God has set us free from any kind of law. In today’s context, that’s like preaching anarchy. This was why he was compelled to give those rules, those restrictions, in his letters. A mature man does not need Paul’s rules. But babies do.

19.

The bible is probably the only historical book in the world that has the power to set people free from any kind of bondage. The book itself, or the letters, has no power. But it is like a mirror that reveals the contents of a man’s innermost desires. I like to think of it as art for common men. How you come to it is how you go. It does not change you, it only shows you who you are. This is why I was comfortable using it in explaining the theory to you. Like every historical document, it has its narrative biases, but unlike most, it does not hide them. This helps us to be able to understand the context of its stories, much more easily.

But the nature of the theory itself has nothing to do with the bible. You could pick up any book and prove the theory with it. But remember that, in an abstract geometrical sense, there are two kinds of books: perfect circles and perfect boxes. The bible, the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, are all books with the shape of a perfect box. Most nonfiction titles or books that try to mirror the world as it is have the shape of a perfect circle.

20.

I will like to romanticise the bible a little. My father likes to say iwe yen pe ju. This book is too complete. I never really understood what he meant as a 15 year old. At 15, I knew I was smarter than most people, but I also knew there were lots of things I did not understand. This, my father’s adoration of a book I knew was incomplete, was one of them. But I did not pay much attention to it. I simply dismissed it as ‘one of those things’. It was not until I became born again, that I was able to understand his words.

These days, I don’t read the bible anymore, because I am scared I will find God within those pages. Of course, there’s nothing to be afraid of. I definitely will not see God inside a book, but I am sure you get the idea. That book is special, to me, and I don’t want to ruin all the memories I have about its stories. It’s the same way I am scared of re-reading the Harry Potter books. I don’t know if I will like them now that I am older. Let those books be. The secret is not in them; it’s in me.

21.

By now, the theory should be taking shape in your head. Its shimmering quality evades all existing human languages and branches of knowledge. You know the intensity of the fever that gripped me when I first stumbled on it and tried to cram it into some four pages. But no one, other than me, could grasp its completeness. Because it was my theory and no one thinks the way I think. The Theory of Everything appears differently to those who spot it. It is around you and inside of you. But only you can spot it. When you do, the world becomes your oyster.

22.

Do not be deceived when people tell you that the purpose of life is happiness. It is not that the statement is true or false, but such people usually have a predefined definition of happiness. Have the courage to define yourself. I don’t even know what courage means, but you should. Language binds. Free yourself from its shackles. Use your mind, that gift that modern physics cannot comprehend. Books will guide you, music will nudge you, but free your mind from the world’s influence and enter into a place where everything is possible.

There are no mysteries in the universe. The only mystery is you. You are the Kingdom of God. You are complete. You are whole. Own yourself, own your Christianity, own your feelings, own your unfeeling, build, destroy, wait, move, sleep, live, do whatever and then take responsibility.

23.

The conclusion of the whole matter is this: love God and keep his commandments. What this means, of course, is that you define your own God and be consistent with it. I don’t know how you are going to do that. I can only speak for myself. If you still haven’t grasped the theory, I could do a rewrite for you. I love you and it is my joy that you come to the full understanding of God’s great gift which has been made available to us since creation. 


Yours,
Solomon

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