The Cosmologist's Escape

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As a child, I used to ponder something. A piece of paper, cut into smaller and smaller pieces, what would happen to it? You could a paper in half, then cut one of those halves in half, and then one of those halves cut into half. So on and so on it would go. In my mind, I imagined an endless sequence of cutting halves of paper, always being able to make it just one bit smaller.

Then there was the molecule.

Atoms, as well.

Maybe even strings? Something stranger? Nothing, perhaps, at all.

The reality that our eyes allow us to see, is really just an illusion. This is an incredible truth… right?

Suddenly my little piece of white paper had become the playing field for universal movements.

I couldn’t very well continue walking down this path, so I decided to take a seat on the nearest park bench. It was a cool autumn day. I zipped up my jacket, watching as my breath unfolded from my mouth into the crisp air.

I remembered what my colleague said to me a few years ago: “Someday we’re going to regret pursuing the answers we hungered for. That question was never meant to be answered. What happens when you cut a piece of paper in half – maybe all that happens is reduction; not the incomprehensible madness we’ve stumbled upon. A hidden world, an unraveling of all we used to understand. Some may find solace in the storm of advancement, but I prefer the quiet calm of ignorance.”

There was a time when I disagreed with him, vehemently so.

Now however, I was living at the foot of ancient mountains, steeped not in the history of man, but of idyllic nature. Chaotic nature. I’d escaped the confines of our society, only to find myself breathlessly climbing upwards the hierarchy of minerals.

“Hello,” an older fellow hiker greeted me with a smile as he passed by on the trail. “Snow’s just starting to fall, but you probably have a good hour before it gets really bad.” He maintained a smile as he likely searched my face for commonality. Apparently not finding what he was looking for, he turned away with a brief wave and nod.

I wasn’t the kind of person to engage a stranger in small talk. I also wasn’t the kind of person to go hiking around Lake Louise. Sitting in my two bedroom apartment, reading a book I’d read multiple times before, I decided today was going to be a different kind of day.

The drive from my little town to the hiking trail was completed in a manner of minutes.
My drive from the bustling cities I used to live within, to the cold, comparatively desolate Canadian wilderness had been a much longer affair. Back home, I was ‘eminent in my field’, someone who would be rewriting college textbooks for decades to come. Out here in the wilderness, I was just another variable in the ecosystem, trying to find happiness in my niche.

“Why are you leaving?” It had been a fairly simple question, which had been asked by many of my friends and family. Although I’d never come up with a satisfactory answer for them, I’d come up with plenty of good reasons for myself.

Sometimes I wish I had never pondered that little piece of paper.

There are still days when I find myself trying to forget the discoveries we made. The boundaries we pushed. The lines we so proudly stepped beyond.

I stared up into the sky and saw the white flakes fall all around me. I got up, shaking a few of the flakes from my toque-covered head, and headed further up the trail. I was still breathing heavily. With every step I could feel the tension mounting in my legs and chest.

After twenty minutes of hiking I was lost in a world consisting of howling winds and sharp snowflakes.

A simpler, brutal world.

About the Author: 
A poor, tired university student stuck in the middle of the frozen Canadian landscape. Armchair cosmologist; pseudo-intellectual - occasional writer.