The Tree of Life: at the Root of it All


At the top of Bray Head last Saturday, while tucking in to an exquisite quorn chicken baguette of his making, my boyfriend explained to me E=MC². He did a really good job; there was a lot of imaginary rock throwing into the water and the thermos flask of mocha doubled up as a handy representation of the speed of light squared. He told me about nuclear fusion and fission – about subatomic structures and the search for the “god” particle. Absent mindedly I munched my pringles and watched the sea, trying to fathom it all. It began to rain.

Our descent proved phsyic(s)ally yet more intense. I had nerd questions to ask and gnarly roots to stumble over. I sort of wish I hadn’t let my apprehension of mirrors, electricity and maths prevent me from studying physics for the Leaving Certificate. An in-depth knowledge of the stuff is probably the closest you are going to get to the meaning of life.

In the second episode of Channel 4’s programme about Amish teenagers during their “Rumspringa” phase, a pure-faced, bonneted Amish girl points to a tree and asks the artist in Kent whom she is visiting how it could possibly have come from “nothing”; by which she means ‘no God’. She is incredulous at the idea of evolution. Her alternative narrative of aboresque origin; the biblical creation story –  in spite of its obvious falsity – suddenly appears to me strangely, ironically sophisticated. God, as existing outside of time makes redundant the need to explain relativity and progress: the hallmarks of evolution. While Amish girl looks at a tree and classes it begotten not made, scientists dig deeper and deeper and deeper to identify subatomic structures … until they arrive at: Nothingness; the “god” particle; claritas?

It is simply impossible for me to understand this until there evolves in my brain a further imaginative and existential dimension – as King Lear said –  surely “nothing can come from nothing”?

We reach the foot of the hill: the inside of our heads beating to the buzz of billions of neurons. The view up is tree-lined and the magnificent cross at the peak bears its arms like branches. I need to pee.

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