Extrapolating the Micro World to the Macro Universe
Let’s start with the beginning of life. The Earth itself is only about 4.5 billion years old, and life began in what scientists have described as a ‘primordial soup’. The first single-cell organisms developed in a soupy organic material, and then these organisms reproduced by splitting one cell into two. Darwin’s theory of evolution tells us that minor mutations lead to differences among the population, with some traits superior than others resulting in survival of the fittest. This process reiterated itself billions of times as life grew more and more complex.
As cells formed symbiotic relationships with each other, larger organisms were formed such as plants and fungi. The complexity only became more intricate, however, when cells formed specialized groups known as organs, through which symbiotic relationships with other organs can form organisms like animals. In the same way that the microscopic organelles in a cell function together to complete the cell’s purpose, the human body’s organs function in perfect equilibrium to sustain life. And if we ‘think outside the box’, we can take this yet another step further. Humans form symbiotic relationships with each other, with different people taking up different roles to complete the combined goal of society. Are we not, in this sense, a cell of a living organism? Are we not bound by the cell wall we form around ourselves — the rules, written and unwritten, of society?
I’d suggest that we are indeed, and that although there are parts of the cell that are more complex than others, there are no parts that are more important than others. As we have seen, the model of how things work is the same on the microscopic level as it is on a singular human level, as well as it is on society’s level as a whole. If we take it a step further, we can even suggest that the celestial bodies all work in harmony toward a mutual, symbiotic goal. Perhaps that goal is something like gravity, or some other force we are unable to explain from our measly perspective on Earth.
But this is where it gets crazy. If the model replicates itself from both the microscopic and macroscopic perspective, we are therefore capable of understanding macro realities by observing the microscopic world, and on the contrary we are able to understand micro realities by observing the macroscopic world. When I am recording a drum beat that is really complex, I sometimes choose to slow the entire song down while I play, just to speed it up after. This makes it easier to get right, for I can choose to slow the song down to a point where I can ‘understand’ the rhythm and get in the flow. Some of the greatest thinkers of history were great because they truly understood this concept, and they became comfortable with shifting their perspective.
Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity involved an apple falling to Earth. The same force that pulls the moon around its orbit was the force responsible for the apple’s falling. Observing the moon to reach this conclusion would be considerably more difficult than observing the apple, however, and both contain the key to the same secret. Plato, when attempting to determine the essential purpose of man, instead chose to look at the macro — he proposed a fictional republic which he could use to observe and conclude whether it was better for an individual to be just or unjust, for example. In mathematics, the Mandelbrot set is a factual representation of the exact concept I’m describing — and it’s found in nature! I am happy to have discovered such an integral method of thinking, and I am only beginning to grasp the extent to which this can be applied.
With this in mind, let’s get back to discussing the evolution of life. As I said, organs evolved out of a symbiotic need of cells to specialize functions and efficiently gather and share resources. Life favors complexity for some reason, and I believe the secret lies in the Mandelbrot set. The stage of complexity we as conscious humans get to experience, however, is of unprecedented proportion. Life has evolved so extraordinarily that there are now organs (e.g. the brain, nervous system) that are capable of harnessing the flows of electricity to send messages throughout the network within a body. It is amazing that life has formed a sort of symbiotic relationship with the energy force of electricity, and it is even more amazing that these organs only continued evolving to the point of self-awareness and consciousness. Not only were these electric forces sending and receiving messages, they were now capable of stepping outside and observing themselves. Through an incredible story of natural evolution, and perhaps a symbiotic relationship between early hominids and naturally-occurring psilocybin, consciousness evolved through the same process of the lotus flower — all from a common, single-celled ancestor. But why did all of this happen?
I was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith, although my family was hardly one of the strictly religious types. I went to Saint Monica’s Catholic elementary school in Santa Monica for Kindergarten and part of first grade. There I became exposed to religion for the first time in an academic setting, and churchgoing became part of our daily routine. Living in California was great — there was nothing better than a Jamba Juice banana and strawberry smoothie on a Friday after school, weather perfect as always. We lived in a cool modern house up by Temescal Canyon in the Pacific Palisades. From the first moments we moved into the house my imagination was exploding. There was a large wilderness area with a sweeping view down towards Pali High, and exploring this area was an enjoyable pastime of mine. As an adult I have driven by this area, however, and my memory of an enchanted wilderness was actually more of a deserted hillside. We moved to Connecticut when I was seven or eight years old because my dad wanted to live closer to his family out there. It was a dramatic change, and I totally hated it. Old Greenwich School was lame and cold compared to the lunch-outdoors vibe back in California. I especially despised the smell of frozen chicken nuggets and ketchup which was consistently smeared across the whole bathroom. After a year or two, however, and with solid friendships formed, I began to enjoy living on the East Coast.
My dad and I were able to learn how to do things like tapping Maple trees to make our own syrup — something that would have never been possible in L.A. My cousins’ farm, the Back Forty, had about forty or so sugar maples, including the infamous ‘Bubba’. I found it amazing that the indigenous Americans perfected such an intricate process, maintaining the perfect temperature and patience to slowly boil sap. I learned that the best time to tap trees is in February or March, depending on the year’s weather. Basically, you need the temperature to be below freezing at night, and above freezing during the day. This creates a sort of convection cycle within the tree, alerting it that Spring is beginning and it is time to awaken again. Tapping the tree during this time creates a sturdy flow of sap, and all you have to do is hang a bucket to collect it. On heavy flow weeks we could fill an entire bucket each day. Depending on the tree’s size, you can place two, three, four, or even five buckets (shoutout Bubba) without harming the tree. Forty gallons of sap could be boiled into one gallon of syrup, and forty gallons of syrup could be boiled into one gallon of maple sugar. After collecting the sap in a large plastic tank, we would transfer it to the barn where there were three propane turkey fryers. We filled each with sap and boiled them for about six or seven hours. Once the sap was nearing its end we would bring it inside for finishing, where we would maintain the sap at 217 degrees until it was perfect syrup. Tools like hydrometers enabled us to determine the total sugar content in a substance, and we were even able to figure out which trees had the most sugar, baby! But why did all of this happen?
What is the force in my life that has guided me to the point I am today? The maple syrupping (and yes, that is a verb as far as I’m concerned) is only one aspect of my life, yet it is a real experience and knowledge I have gained that exists within my brain for as long as I live, and now that I have written it onto this page and shared it with others, forever. Why did those Indigenous Americans boil the sap down into maple syrup? The molecular answer is because the human brain has a reaction with sugar, leading us to desire sweet things. But what about sweet things do we desire so much that leads us to sit in a cold barn for seven hours in February? Also, why not stop after four hours — a large amount of water has already boiled off, making the sap far sweeter, although far from the consistency of syrup? We can not explain this aspect of humanity with molecules. We must instead look to other, intangible forces. As things like syrup have been discovered, their knowledge has passed down and been improved upon. We then use these things to create even newer, more complex things, like syrup with pancakes. Is there not a direct comparison to the method in which life has evolved to this point of complexity? When we create such things are we mimicking life, or simply participating in it?
Let’s take it another step. I am willing to pose that the majority of people reading this will have no direct personal experience of making maple syrup, though I wouldn’t be surprised if most were to say that they have consumed it at one point, if not frequently. By reading what I have written, however, you have been brought in amongst the leagues of humans who possess this rare, sacred knowledge. In a sense, I have planted a seed — if someone reads this and decides to make syrup of their own, that seed has then blossomed into a new level of complexity in that person’s life, however small it may be. This act occurs billions of times every day. People don’t just ‘arrive’ at some point in their life; it is instead a sequence of infinitely brief moments in time. Imagine a pilot who had dreamed of achieving such a career their entire life. There must have been a moment when this person was first introduced to airplanes, and if that had not happened in that moment, perhaps this person would have never formed such a dream or been so determined in achieving it. I dreamed of being a pilot because people like my Uncle George inspired a love of aviation by bringing me to places such as the Boeing Factory in Everett, Washington when I was only a kid. I saw the 787 Dreamliner and 747–8 while they were still on the factory line, years ahead of their debut flights. I also witnessed the sheer scale of the largest building on planet Earth — a city in and of itself, complete with a laundromat and similar amenities. Yet there was some point where I made the decision not to pursue aviation as my personal career, and unlike that pilot who is probably somewhere in the skies over Greenland right now, I am sitting and writing about my perspective on life. And that is such a beautiful thing, because it allows me to understand things that are far greater than myself. I can do literally whatever I want to do with my life — whether it be a pilot, or writer, or any of the many other things I am sure I will experiment. In the same way, life could become anything — whether it be a flower, starfish, human, or virus. In a world of infinite possibilities, we can enjoy infinite realities as well.
Although it may seem like we are unable to answer the age-old question of why anything happens at all, the clues have been obvious for millennia. Gravity, the force responsible for massive blackholes and microscopic organisms, dictates all of creation. To understand it, we must simply engage in a complete paradigm shift. We must understand that the microscopic and macroscopic worlds are bound by the same rules and can therefore be utilized to learn more about the other.