This was a summer of symmetry.
Let me explain.
I have been in a long-term fight with a certain persistent virus that refuses to take a hint (or a shove) and move along. My old nemesis, Epstein Barr made itself comfortable, particularly in my gut this time around, and made me tired and grumpy and not very summery-feeling at all. Yet there were periods of joy, sunshine and laughter, in between the in-bed-or-wanting-to-be, that felt just as summer should. There were family vacations; days at the pool soaking up the vitamin D (Seriously. Vitamin D is my hero. And Epstein Barr’s worst enemy.); horseback riding; late dinners with friends on the back porch; fireflies; Gin and tonics; and most recently, hours of Olympics-watching. We could win a medal if that in itself were an event. But there was also Moluscum Contagiosum (I’ll tell you about that another time, but just know it was nearly as bad as it’s grotesque name implies. And it threw me down a dark psychological hole for a bit). Between the high highs and the low lows it was like a sped-up time lapse of life in general: a roller coaster of ups and downs smushed into the span of two and a half months. I felt like a wrung out rag a lot of the time.
But I listened to a conversation one day that helped me see things more clearly. And feel a little less upset by this microcosm of general reality. Krista Tippet of the podcast On Being interviewed nobel physicist Frank Wilczek about his belief in “beauty as a compass for truth, discovery and meaning.” In the podcast he explained the idea of symmetry from a mathematical or scientific perspective. He says that symmetry, the way we commonly use it, means balance, harmony, fairness. But those terms are vague. In science they need a more precise concept, so the definition of symmetry within science and mathematics is change without change. For example, Einstein’s theory of relativity says that if were to move past the world at a constant velocity, although things may look different, the same physical laws will apply to the new configuration of the world. So you can make a change in the way everything looks, but you can’t change the laws that make up the object’s reality.
Hello. Symmetry. This summer was both an experience of the common usage of the word and the scientific. It was a balance of good and bad, had a sense of fairness if you will. And though my circumstances changed – the way things looked from the point of view of an outsider passing by would have altered from week to week (sometimes day to day) – the laws of physics stayed the same. The very fact of my existence did not move. My illness and wellness rotated around the axis of me as a human being alive in the world. My circumstances did not alter who I am at the core. Did not alter the realities that keep me living and breathing: spiritual as well as physical.
Somehow this gave me peace. It didn’t make me feel better in my mitochondria, which I’ve now learned Epstein Barr attacks (the jerk), but it did help in my mind and heart. Frank Wilczek’s and Krista Tippet’s soothing voices didn’t hurt either. I could listen to them all day. I’m sure I will again, to remember the vivid and down-to-earth ways he described all manner of scientific principles, and how they demonstrate beauty in the way the world is structured. As if it is the work of a great artist.
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve always loved symmetry it’s it’s general sense – balance in everything is a good way to live. But now it means something greater. I’m trying to make peace with symmetry and let it calm my reaction to the ups and downs.
Seeing life through the lens of Frank Wilczek’s nobel prize-winning mind helps .