S – Week 7: Fabling the Quanta

Fabling the Quanta

“They talk of attraction and magnetism; these notions suggest a force acting between two given bodies; what is left out of account is how utterly the bodies appear to change in themselves; they are no longer the given bodies. The fact of being given has changed them.” John Berger, G

When I wake up tomorrow morning, I hope to find a national dispatch upon my landing. In panic-caps the thin paper will read, “BREAKING NEWS: TECHNOLOGY HAS FAILED, NOTHING WORKS ANYMORE.” It turns out that late last night, a tinkering physicist had distilled the unified theory of everything from the wings of a beetle. She had plucked these exoskeletal apostrophes of armored flight off the insect, letting them roll and settle in her palm. She read the otherwise concealed equation that was indelibly scratched into its nacreous enamel. She cross-checked it with her collection of identical equations: it was the same string of numbers to be found on the inside of bamboo shoots, read from the backs of sky-bound larks, and cast by the shadows of volcanic ash. She had read the surface, junction, and bend of every particle and wave, and this last beetle completed her inventory of everything.

She had abolished uncertainty. She was spiritualities inverse, lying in complement to any God that’s ever been forgotten.

Unfortunately, there was something remarkably self-defeating about this unified theory of everything. It was undermining: as soon as she completed her database, her computer’s fan hummed to a halt. The lights flickered out. Michelle Norris’ voice suddenly went mute from within her battery-powered radio, and silence was replaced by the sound of an airplane falling into a valley’s basin. It would have been easy to consider coincidence, blame it on some magnetically charged cloud coverage or terrorist attack that happened to coincide with her discovery. But… a few things take etiological priority, and unified theories are at the top. And of course, this was a theory of everything so, after substituting a few variables, two things were clear:

1)   Ecological disasters, national disasters, and epistemological disasters were suddenly inseparable. They had merged together into one holistic metaphysical concept: disaster.

2)   Oops. Could she get away with blaming the beetle?

She had rode its iridescent backside to an illogical but wholly recognizable outcome: after a universal decoding, a leveling took place. Suddenly, myths of depth collapsed upon themselves and the entirety of Western civilization sunk a few inches. This was enough to dangle power lines, shift the world’s orbit, and confuse weather-sensitive dogs. There was no harnessed electricity. There were no operable factories. There were no paper trails.

Everything was wiped clean. Tabula rasa.

Everything was back at zero. Reboot.

Her equation had rendered itself useless, instantly artifactual. A cipher for the old world.


This is when I would open my front door and untie twine from tree pulp, unfurling explanations brought to me through antediluvian printing mechanisms.


My neighbor would swing from his doorway, fingers anchoring himself to the inner molding. He’d smile.

He’d assure me that, in a way, this was the best thing that could have ever happened—it was about time we reinvented the wheel. We were given the gift of our own beginning, and we would never forget the beetle.

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