Sunday, February 17, 2013
The Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” – Carl Sagan.
One of my favourite books is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams. I highly recommend it. Dirk is a detective who operates on the principle of “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things”. He doesn’t look for clues. Or, rather, everything is a clue, because of the fundamental inter… You get the idea: everything that happens is related to everything else that happens, and therefore, ultimately, points towards the precise thing-that-happened that is under investigation.
There is a kind of weirdly resonant, if also slightly silly, truth in this. Ripple effects. Butterfly effects. “No man in an island…”. Making apple pies from scratch. Even “six degrees of separation”. All these things suggest the same idea, or variants thereof: namely that everything is interconnected. It is always possible to follow the links from here to there, be they causal links or otherwise. Unlike the Irishman whom you ask for directions, and who wisely informs you that you “can’t get there from here”, I believe, like Dirk Gently, that you can always, finally, get there from here.
Carl Sagan also once said, “We are made of starstuff.” An entire history, back to the beginning of time, leads to me, sitting here right now, right here, writing this. I won’t let it go to my head, though. Because it is true of you, too; and of everyone else. It’s also true of the mosquito that just bit my ankle. It’s true of the dengue virus that she could have injected into my bloodstream. We are the apple pies that the universe has made. We are not the end points, though, just links in the chain, nodes in the network. Still, it’s pretty cool being a link.
It’s a sobering thought: I am the current embodiment of one particular chain of causality that began with the Big Bang. That entire history finds expression in me, here and now. But I am now a cause, as well as an effect. What am I going to do with this power of causality?