Template:The Beginning of Time

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Thoughts for the Day

Let us imagine

Our symbolic year begins on the first day after the winter Solstice. This day symbolizes the beginning of time as do the first words of our service. So let us begin the year by considering one of the Big Questions of metaphysics. What came before the Big Bang? What caused the Big Bang? How did time start?

The first words of our service are somewhat misleading. It is believed by some leading physicists that the Big Bang was the beginning of time. Before that moment, there was no time. Just as the phrase, 1 Kelvin less than absolute zero, has no meaning because you cannot have less heat than no heat, and just as the phrase, one lumen less than absolute darkness, has no meaning because you cannot have less light than no light, the phrase, one second before the big bang, has no meaning because you cannot have time before the beginning of time. A mathematically more accurate metaphor is that just as you cannot go one meter South of the South Pole because the direction South ends at the South Pole, it is meaningless to talk about the time one second into the past from the Big Bang because the 'direction' past ends at the Big Bang.

So the big question of the temporal origin of the universe is answered in the most unexpected way. What came before the Big Bang? The answer is that the question is meaningless. Our words seem to indicate that there was nothing before the big bang but in actual fact there was no 'before the Big Bang'. Time itself is part of the geometry of the universe. There was no moment of creation or coming into being of the universe. Time is a direction within the universe and the universe is finite in that direction. Nothing exists beyond the first moment of time.

Contemplation for the Day

If you can, perform this contemplation outdoors. Otherwise, choose a room where you can stand and walk a couple of paces in different directions.

Every point on the surface of a sphere is the same and to the degree that the Earth is a sphere this is true for the Earth also. Only when you take the daily rotation of the Earth into account does the South Pole in any way become special. Unless you carefully watch the sky for several hours you won't notice the rotation of the Earth. If you want to do a very long version of this meditation by all means you may want to actually travel to the South Pole to do it. Otherwise simply pretend you are at the South Pole.

Pick an exact spot on the ground which is to be the South Pole. Stand facing it about one pace away from it. Imagine the snow swirling about you. The southern Aurora is dancing in a dark sky filled with stars above your head. The South Pole is directly in front of you so obviously you are facing south. Now take a step forward and stand on the spot you chose to be the South Pole. Now you are standing on the South Pole. You are at the furthest point South on the whole Earth. You are facing north. Staying on the South Pole spin slowly around. As you turn you continue to face north. Every direction is north from here. Is that true? Look down at your feet. That direction is still down. It is not south or north. Just as with any place on Earth, if you look down toward the centre of the Earth you are looking down not east or West or North or South. Look up. Imagine the bright stars and swirling aurora above you. That is still up. It is not south or north or east or west.

Now imagine that this place is not the South Pole but instead the Big Bang and that the surface of the Earth is actually time. Instead of cold, snow, stars and aurora, you are surrounded by some kind of plasma which is almost infinitely dense and hot. This is the beginning of time. Slowly turn around keeping your eyes on the horizon. You are looking into the future no matter what direction you face. Take a step away from the Big Bang and then turn back to face it. Imagine that the step you took represented a thousand years. You are now standing in a very young universe, only one millennium old. Although it is much less dense and hot here it is still much hotter and denser than you could survive if this were real rather than contemplation. You are facing the past. You can time travel. Take a step back in time to return to the moment of the Big Bang. You have just traveled back in time to the beginning of time. Take another step. You have gone past the beginning of time and are travelling forward into the future again. Turn and walk right through the Big Bang. You began by travelling back in time but as you crossed the Big Bang, without turning you changed direction and began going forward in time again.

No matter how many 'times' you walk back and forth through the Big Bang you always end up in its future. The direction past ends at the Big Bang.

Quietly contemplate this idea for a while. Open your mind to unintuitive geometries.

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