When I was a kid I drew Corvettes. From the side, with that signature fin on the back. Sometimes, I’d give them gills because they looked like sharks on wheels.

Corvettes, teddy bears, and pointe shoes. Sometimes all in the same picture. Remember when you’d draw without judgment? When you didn’t hear a bunch of nasal voices twanging about color and balance and negative space and composition? I do. I remember it with nostalgia.

Hey, so on the radio yesterday, I heard this guy say that nostalgia is just an expression of your current unhappiness.

Nostalgia is just an expression of your current unhappiness.

So when we yearn for the good old days, it’s just because the now days kind of suck? Actually, yeah. I suppose that has a corn cob of truth. I took a happiness test recently (god, could those questions be any more loaded?) and it turns out that you can be TOO happy. That, in fact, if all your answers come out singing, you’re really just stuffing discontent/frustration/pain into the toe of your boot.  Maybe that’s why people who force happiness always have that pinched look on their faces. Ouch on the toes.

For the first year after my mom died, I was the Auto Pilot to Happyland. I welcomed people onboard, did the whole “We’re cruising – nay, soaring – at 30,000 feet, folks!” forced them to eat warmed-over chicken a la king, and handed out little bags of going nuts. I was on the second season of a TV show hanging by its fingernails and god, was I smiley. That year I insisted, with a kind of martial law, that we host a giant Thanksgiving dinner. That pinched look worked its way around my face and I had fun twisting it into laughs, kind eyes, benevolence. What no one knew is that I had craftily steered the plane into the Large Hadron Collider.

NEWSBREAK*: The Large Hadron Collider, located (perhaps ironically) near Geneva, Switzerland, was built by the good people at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), for the purpose of understanding space and time, and the intersection of physics, quantum mechanics, and general relativity. In layman’s terms: WTF We’re Here and We Would Like to Know More About Why. The LHC is contained in a cement-lined, circular tunnel 17 miles in circumference and is, at its deepest point, located 574 feet underground. Most of it is actually in France, a fact I find unsurprising, since my god, the Swiss can be so dull and exacting. Even the LHC wants to dine very late at night for hours and discuss philosophical poetry with a beautifully manicured woman. Víve la excess!! From what I can make out, the basic event involves hurtling either protons or lead nuclei around at nearly the speed of light and then BAMMING THEM TOGETHER!!! Perhaps attempting to replicate, nearly, the (very quietly, now) Big Bang.

There are some, not surprisingly, who get a bit jumpy at the thought of trying to recreate such an event. But What If, they conjecture, and I raise my hand slowly in the back. Yes, What If? Fortunately, the good people at CERN have commissioned safety reviews, and assure all humanity, with gentle strokes on the back, that it’s all good. Well if that’s the case, I can proceed.

Which I did, flooring the gas pedal in my plane until we were all right next to those adorable little protons. And on your left, I boomed over the loudspeaker, you’ll see bits of everything going very, very quickly! Wave to the bits! We love you, bits! And if everyone would now brace yourself for impact, the plane will be colliding momentarily.

What no scientist can tell you about the Big Bang, is how it felt.

It hurts.

There’s some misunderstanding about big bangs and black holes (that’s what she said). (Sorry). (No, I’m not sorry – I LOVE saying that.) A lot of people think big bangs and black holes are the same thing, but actually, the singularity of a big bang lies in the past, and the singularity of a black hole lies in the future. That’s what I said, folks – a black hole is in the future. And what surprised me, what made my hair blow back, is that the black hole that followed my big bang was exactly what I needed. No one’s ever seen a black hole, but everyone agrees they exist. That’s kind of like grief. Often, we don’t see it. For all kinds of reasons. But it’s there. And sooner or later, it will make itself known in some form. Watching someone die is like watching a star collapse. The body, the form, is there. And then, suddenly, everything is much, much quieter. The darkness, the silence, is a blessed relief. It’s somewhere to go, and there’s nobody there. Once you’re in a black hole, there’s no other conclusion but the horizon.** There’s no fighting the gravitational pull – there’s too much mass. So recline in the cosmic LA-Z-Boy and just relax.

I needed the black hole. I needed to have no other choice but to shut up and watch it happen. Hurtling around at near-light speed is exhausting. Even if you are in France most of the time. And what I discovered is that the black hole is friendly and communicative and totally without judgment. I mean, it’s a black hole, for chrissake.

Nowadays, I sometimes lean over the balcony of the universe and take a peek at the black hole. It’s still there, being hole-y. And while that would have completely freaked me out a few years ago, now I find it comforting. Whatever wants to avoid the black hole has to go faster than the speed of light. Go, protons, go, but secretly I hope you stay at 99.9999991% of the speed of light. Because sometimes, it’s good to fall into the black hole. Makes crawling out that much more worthwhile.

* Thanks to Wikipedia, for being there when I need you.

** Thanks to Ted Bunn for this: http://cosmology.berkeley.edu/Education/BHfaq.html#q3

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