Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Waves

I write this now sitting on a wooden balcony of sorts, overlooking the branch of the Lake of the Ozarks that snakes out around the edge of the little community I call home. The sun is setting, insects buzz in the thick green woods that surround the lake, and while the air is warm, the breeze is just a bit cool, just enough to make the temperature very pleasant. I see only a narrow strip of intermittent clouds in the sky, darkened by the way the light is hitting them, with a pink haze beneath them and a clear blue expanse above them which grows darker as it approaches the zenith. Only a few evening lake-goers can still be seen on the lake, and even they appear to be inching closer to the docks, their boats leaving long wakes that fan out into waves which ripple slowly across the water.

Ah, the waves. While there is no shortage of beauty to be seen from where I sit, it is the waves that captivate me more than anything else. As the wake from one of the boat continues to engulf the lake, changing its entire landscape with even, parallel lines that slowly inch towards land, I see another line of waves push back the opposite direction and begin to engulf the first set of waves until they are canceled out. Then the more subtle natural wave pattern of the lake soon becomes apparent again, flowing at a forty-five degree angle to the waves left by the boat. And all this time the smaller little waves could be seen lapping up and down, entirely indifferent to the larger waves with their greater wavelengths and lower frequencies. One does not affect the other as far as I can tell. And these little waves, rippling through the lake, seem to be random and yet in perfect harmony. If I cared to, I could probably time them and measure their frequency, and it would probably be the same no matter which point of the lake I picked to observe. I sit here from my vantage point watching all of this as the sky begins to grow dark, and I realize I am seeing the universe.

The lake is, indeed, an image and archetype of the universe itself at all scales, from the smallest quantum scale to the scale of multiple galaxy clusters. Waves flowing, crossing, merging, canceling, pushing, and pulling on other waves. Waves made of particles, which are made of waves, which are made of particles, which are made of waves, which continue down until you reach the smallest possible thing, which is both particle and wave, quantized and discreet yet flowing and amorphous. Bound by frequencies and amplitudes, yet clumped into coherent units, creating a tension which is both quantifiable and unpredictable. This is the palette of mathematical color from which the universe itself is painted by its Painter, skillfully and carefully mixed into photons and electrons, quarks and gluons, stars and galaxies, summer breezes and sunsets.

I look at the lake and see the story of everything. I see a narrative of all that has happened and will happen being told by the water in its silent voice. I hear the whisperings of every joy, every tragedy, every solemn occasion, every blissful moment, and I think to myself that if only I knew what the water knows, perhaps I could influence that narrative in some way and make the story a little bit better. Perhaps I could create waves of healing which flow opposite waves of tragedy, matching their frequency and wavelength, and canceling them out. Perhaps I could learn to paint with this palette of waves as a painter myself. For, in fact, I already am a painter, as is every person whether they realize it or not. But we are not always lucid as to what we paint, whether our waves make the story better or worse. This is not always our fault, because there is so much we don’t yet know and don’t yet understand. But, all too often we think we know, or rather, we pretend we know. Or we simply cease to care. We stop looking at the waves and look only at ourselves. We cease to learn or to observe the wake we leave behind as it ripples through everything around us. And such willful ignorance inevitably results in terrible chapters to this story we are all writing within the waves of the universe.

It’s now nearly dark. The lake is still visible but the I can no longer make out the waves except in the brightest spots. I know that while the light, itself waves that mirror the nature of the water, has crept away to shine on other parts of the Earth, the waves on the water still continue unseen, telling their story to whoever can perceive them and understand what they are saying. I hear their message, and I will keep listening until I understand. Because I want to make beauty like they do, that someone else might some day look on and take from me what I now take from the lake.

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