Prior to my Enlightening, I actually believed that scientists knew just about everything there is to know about the universe. It never even occurred to me that many great thinkers throughout history believed the same thing, quite mistakenly, in the context of their own times. From the brilliant scholars of the Enlightenment and Renaissance, to the most learned of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, and probably all the way back to the astronomer-priests of Neolithic times, a presumption of near-total understanding of the cosmic firmament has been a recurring thread of human thought.
Ptolemy, the ancient Greek astronomer, was quite certain that the Earth was at the center of the universe. The planets, sun and moon all circled around the Earth, in perfectly circular orbits. Closest to the Earth in its orbit was the moon, with Mercury circling in a still farther out orbit. Following Mercury were, in turn, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, with an infinite field of stars orbiting the Earth even farther away.
During the awakening of the Renaissance, Nicolaus Copernicus proposed the heliocentric universe, with a motionless Sun at the very center and orbited by the Earth, the moon, the other planets, and the stars of the firmament. Perfectly circular orbits were still the model, until the early 17th century, when Kepler came along and described elliptical orbits. At that point, there was not an inkling of the existence of galaxies, or that our sun was actually a star, or much more that we know today as common knowledge.
Today, we revel in our own intellectual certitude, while preferring not to focus on several disconcerting modern-day mysteries of cosmology. One mystery is that nobody on Earth can describe the physical mechanism behind the pervasive phenomenon of wave-particle duality. Wave-particle duality is undoubtedly a central principle of our universe, since photons of light, electrons, and even fairly sizeable molecules all appear to exist as both particles and waves, simultaneously.
In fact, it is not a big jump to wonder if every single thing in the universe exists as both a particle, and a wave, quite paradoxically. Even people and planets, perhaps, exist in this bizarre dual state. Yet even though the physical mechanism of this fundamental wave-particle duality has been a complete scientific mystery for more than 200 years, I still clung to my belief that we knew just about all there was to know about the universe!
Likewise, the paradoxical invariance of light speed, which is the Second Postulate of Albert Einstein’s Special Relativity theory, had been enshrined as a scientific concept for over 100 years, with no apparent physical mechanism to back it up. I could add newer concepts such as dark matter and dark energy to the list of profound cosmological mysteries, yet still, in my own mind, our scientists knew exactly what was going on in the universe, for the most part. Quite a few physicists, if not the broad majority, would have agreed with that sentiment, I believe.
I suppose our human stubbornness drives us to frame things in terms of our own expectations, which certainly caused me to miss out on many great chances in life. If a new thought or idea was outside of those expected frames, I often rejected it, as a matter of course.
Quite simply, I had been overly content with my worldview, as must be true for most people. Who wants to question what they’ve known all their life? In the end, it took a series of extraordinary, eye-opening experiences, for me to contemplate any big changes in my own ways of thinking.
I am now completely convinced that there is much, much more to the universe than what is obviously visible or measurable. The unseen portions of the cosmos infinitely dwarf the portions that are seen, not only from our own human perspective, but from any single perspective. Truly, the physical foundations of our own discernable existence are laid down in a manner that neither physicist nor philosopher– on this planet, at least— ever dreamed of before. The entire spectrum of what I experienced and what I learned, during those nine transformative days, is what I refer to as my “Enlightening”.
After junior year of college, I was back in my home town of Rundle Heights for summer break. I worked part-time at the R.H. Enterprise restaurant, which was only a few blocks away from where I was staying, at my Cousin Walter’s house. Walter was in Seattle for a few months, because of his job, and I was house-sitting, basically, while paying him a token rent out of my meager part-time paycheck.
Walter said it was the first time in his four years with the company that they had asked him to travel anywhere, and it just happened to coincide with most of my summer break, so the timing couldn’t have been any better for me. Had I been back at my parent’s house, in my old bedroom, as usual, the situation would have been a lot more complicated. As it was, my mom and dad usually stopped by three or four times a week, to bring me some lasagna or split pea soup or whatever else my mom made, and to make sure I was taking care of Walter’s house, like I said I would.
The first question most people ask me about my parents is whether they had ever met Merle. Due to my parents’ habit of showing up at my door unannounced, both of them did have interactions and conversations with Merle, on more than one occasion. I actually suspect that Merle purposely timed those particular visits, knowing full well that my parents were on their way over. At any rate, it was quite obvious that he enjoyed talking with them. I guess that’s why my parents never had any suspicions about Merle, while he was around. They liked Merle.
Also, we lied to my parents, and told them Merle was a friend I knew from school. That seemed to satisfy them enough to not ask too many questions. Merle and I didn’t really enjoy it having to be that way, but there had to be some kind of cover story as to how I knew Merle, and being “friends from college” seemed like the perfect angle.
My mother says that Merle seemed totally normal to her, and that the whole thing was quite difficult to believe, at first. But I’m fairly sure she does believe it now, more or less. I don’t think Mom’s too clear on the physics aspect, though.
My father just completely steers away from the subject of Merle, as much as he can. He usually gets sort of angry when it comes up in conversation, and as far as I know, he has never even acknowledged the possibility of it all being true. So I try to not talk about Merle when my dad is around.
On the other hand, my dad does enjoy discussing the physics part of it with me, and most of the time, we manage to stick to talking about the workings of the universe. Every once in a while, though, I slip up and accidentally mention Merle, and my dad will give me “the look” that all fathers have, I think, when you’ve overstepped some boundary or whatever.
As for me, I always thought that the idea of a hyper-dimensional universe stands on its own. Who really cares how I claim to have arrived at such a thing? I often wonder if anybody would have paid any attention at all, if Merle hadn’t been included in the story, anyway. Merle himself told me that I could choose to mention him, or not mention him, after he left. He would leave that totally up to me, is what he said. He was just hoping I could figure out how to gain the attention of those with ears to hear, is how he put it. I promised him that I would do my best, and that was about how we left it.
That’s why I decided to put it all down into words, as a documentation of the events that I experienced, and the ideas that I was exposed to, that summer. This is not only a chronicle of my own personal adventures and enlightening, but it also serves as my best “evidence” of the cumulative progression of reinterpretations necessary for an entire series of revolutionary new understandings in relativity, astrophysics, quantum mechanics, particle physics and cosmology.
I never wanted to pretend that Merle didn’t exist, or that Merle didn’t influence my Enlightening, or that Merle didn’t place the theory right in my lap. I’ve been upfront about the whole thing all along, except for in the beginning, when I didn’t want to mention Merle to my father, yet.
As I had mentioned, my father does embrace the physics itself, even though he doesn’t like the Merle angle. My dad has a double major, in physics and engineering, so he studied relativity, quantum mechanics and all the rest. He was always especially interested in relativity, too, like I was.
I explained the theory– or theories, I suppose– to my father, after Merle left. I decided not to mention my unusual friend, at first, which was definitely a smart move on my part.
My dad came to understand the entire arc of this new way of thinking about the universe, quite clearly, as we talked about it. He tells me the thing about it is that you have to go through all the different areas of reinterpretation, one by one, with an open mind. Then, when you look back at it, you see that it all fits together, like a key in a lock, and you realize the universe suddenly makes a lot more sense than it did, before.
The way my dad puts it, I haven’t killed, or even wounded, relativity theory. I just expanded it and made it stronger, as well as a great deal more understandable. I remember my dad saying to me, so many times, “I can understand hyper relativity.” By that, he meant that he never really could understand certain physical aspects of the universe, as described by special relativity, in particular. I do agree that hyper relativity is definitely much more understandable, because it clearly represents simple, fundamental truths of the hyper-dimensional universe; truths that are explainable in simple language, and which do not contradict each other.
That’s why I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’m really just the messenger of the “theory”. Even Merle is just a messenger. Nobody can own truths of the universe. They just are what they are, and either we know about them, or we don’t.
My dad told me that he knew Hyper Relativity was correct when he heard my analogy—actually it was Merle’s analogy—of the famous double-slit experiment. Without mentioning Merle, I described the unconventional experiment that Merle had physically performed for me. The rather humorous specifics of it made my dad burst out laughing, and some of the milk he was drinking came out of his nose. We both had a good long laugh over that, and my dad ended up knocking over the pepper grinder, by slapping the table, hard, as he was laughing. He laughed until he finally had a coughing fit. “It’s so ludicrously simple!” he said, when he finally caught his breath. “I can see it all perfectly!”
I’ll never forget how my dad stood in front of me that day, face to face, and about as bug-eyed as I’d ever seen him. He grabbed me by both shoulders, real excitedly, and he sort of shook me back and forth a bit, for emphasis, I guess. “You have to tell somebody about this!” he said. “You have to let people know about this, Ken! This is really important!” And that was before I even had a chance to tell him about all the rest of it, too.
Goczeski, Kevin. The Enlightening.