Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Ethan Goffman

In a ramshackle hut high on a lonely mountain peak dwelt the physicist Bernardx Gandalf, who understood the complexities of the universe. “The sun is the result of a rift into another dimension,” they explained (Bernardx is nonbinary, or perhaps is just a plural being). “That is its endless source of energy, calibrated to bring just enough new energy into the solar system to allow a state of equilibrium with the energy lost into deep space. Contrary to what more ignorant physicists say, this will allow the solar system to exist forever.” This was on my first visit while I was a child accompanied by my father. I vividly remember Bernardx’s voice, deep and vibrating, as if echoing itself and then echoing the echoes.

My future journeys would be alone, up that twisty path strewn with rocks and treacherous crevices, starting at sunset, stumbling through the dark with a single lantern to light my way, finally arriving on that lonely mountain peak to convene with Barnardx in the early morning when he was at his most enlightened. “This galaxy, and the billions that are purported to exist, are simultaneously reality and fantasy,” they told me one crisp spring morning on my first solo journey as a lad just sprouting facial hair. Bernardx sat cross-legged on the ground, sometimes in their suit and tie, sometimes wearing a comfy red sweater, always sporting a bushy white mustache and white hair, often smoking a pipe from which drifted the pungent scent of knowledge. “Currently, the other stars are only concepts in human minds. If we ever actually visit them, then they will exist.”

“What if there are other intelligences out there whose consciousness makes their own planets exist?” I asked.

“Those alien beings don’t currently exist, although if we do ever find them they will instantly appear, along with whole histories and complex civilizations.”

“How do I know that people on the other side of the planet even exist until I visit them? Or even, say, people over in the next town?”

“If it’s in the news you read or stream, it most likely does exist already. Although you’re right to be skeptical—that is a wise question. We all only exist because we perceive ourselves; that we perceive others only indicates a likelihood that they exist, not a certainty.”

“So are we made of matter?”

“Matter is the basis of mind and mind of matter. That is the paradox. They create each other, but each must, by necessity, exist first.”

“Don’t they come into being simultaneously?”

“Both yes and no.”

Visiting Bernardx at the age of 33, on a summer morning as the gentle night breezes gave way to a sticky morning heat, I asked about light and motion. “If a body at rest stays at rest, how do we ever get moving in the first place?”

“You are never at rest. The atoms in your body are in constant motion, as are your cells, your blood, your lungs, your internal organs. The entire universe is alive. Gravity and friction may appear to slow things down, but these are matched by a parallel speeding up or creation of energy.”

“Doesn’t that contradict what you said earlier about the sun drawing energy from another universe?”

“The amount of energy in our universe is constantly expanding. This is why we are drifting apart and, in another 13.787 billion years, will disperse into nothingness.”

“Doesn’t this violate the law of conservation of matter?”

“Yes and no.”

“So does this mean that the theory of the multiverse is true, if we’re constantly receiving energy from some other universe?”

“There are many universes but the truth is that, ultimately, they are the same universe. Looked at another way, there are no universes at all since matter is unitary and is simultaneously an illusion and the only reality. As for string theory, this is just a futile attempt to circumvent the limits of mathematics that physicists have run into.”

“So how do you know this? Have you managed to circumvent the limits of mathematics?”

“Yes and no.”

On another visit, one windy day between fall and winter, I folded my aging legs awkwardly in a cross-legged position, half-frozen yet too exhausted from the long climb to move, as Bernardx explained reality at the atomic level. At this point, he had a long, flowing beard that extended all the way to the edge of the lonely mountain peak and continued into the abyss. “Your body, all the matter you see around you, is composed of solar systems too puny to be observed,” he said. “What scientists have long perceived as neutrons and protons with electrons orbiting around them are actually star systems. Some star systems likely contain intelligent life. Each group of such systems is actually a galaxy. You, yourself, are a galaxy. Since size, larger and smaller and so on, is a kind of illusion, you may be the galaxy in which an infinitesimally small version of you exists. That isn’t a duplicate but is the actual you, meaning that you contain yourself within yourself, and the galaxy you gaze out at is also you. Not different versions of you, but the only you. The universe is unitary.”

“Doesn’t that mean the whole universe exists at once whether I perceive it or not? Doesn’t that contradict what you said before?”

“Yes and no.”

“You can’t get out of logical contradictions just by saying ‘Yes and no’.”

“Yes and no.”

“I think you’re a fraud. You’re not a physicist at all but some kind of mystic. I doubt you even have an advanced degree, perhaps not a college degree.”

“I’ve been expecting you to say that.” Bernardx whipped out a gold-embossed certificate, given at Yale University in the Year of Our Lord 1491, attesting in gleaming calligraphy that he was, indeed, a Doctor of Philosophy in Ultra-Advanced Theoretical Physics and the Mysteries of the Universe.

“That looks fake,” I said.

“You can verify my status online.”

The return journey was treacherous; I tripped and stumbled more than once, crawled part of the way, and nearly gave up before somehow—because the instinct to preserve one’s life is so powerful—forcing myself to stand and stumble homeward. Upon arriving at my village, I instantly fell into a deep sleep from which I might never have awoken had my faithful dog Bilbo not disturbed me with a frantic whining and barking several mornings later. A quick Google check showed that Bernardx was, indeed, an Einstein fellow and an ultra-advanced, utterly distinguished theoretical physicist at Oxford and had been for the last 13.787 billion years, although he was in the midst of a thousand-year sabbatical.

Despite his impeccable credentials, I have decided to stop visiting that lonely mountain crag. This means that I will never get to ask my final question about the ultimate purpose of the universe. My bones are old and tired, my vision blurry, and I can’t handle that steep climb. I’m afraid if I continue, I will lose my footing and plunge spiraling to my death, or worse into a chasm of purgatory with no bottom. More likely, I just can’t handle the truth.


  1. An interesting read. Very engaging too.
    There are myths and truths about our homongous universe. There are theories of the existence of more such universes in the world. The idea of parallel universes has been a hot topic for scientists from long.
    Bhagavad Gita is about real religion, which is loving God, regardless of faith, color, caste or creed; it is for everyone. Gita unfolds the truth of parallel universes.
    Its just a sharing of information.

Leave a Reply

Related Posts