Talking books

I love books above all else, much more than clothes, shoes and handbags. And when we moved to Asia, most of the crates that we shipped over contained books. They were like old friends and much-loved family members.

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Yet curiously, my youngest child was a late reader. We always suspect it was because she so enjoyed being read to every night that she decided not to make the effort to learn to read for herself. She once commented (joking or not, we don’t know), “I could read a long time ago, I just pretended I didn’t know how.”

In my early career, when I had to work long hours, I would count my happy days as the nights that I was able to be home to read my children their bedtime stories. Those were the magical moments of our lives, the hour after bath time, just before bed.

My Ma used to read to us too.

Years ago, when I was in my early forties, someone read me a book for the first time in my adult life. It was a book written in Italian, not published, about wartime Italy. I still could not get the story out of my mind, any more than I could get what my reader read to me. It moved me so deeply that I began writing the precursor of Catching Infinity, Ten Most Beautiful Equations in the World, for the person who read to me.

Indeed, reading out loud a.k.a storytelling is our primal behaviour. It also connects to the emotional centres of our brain, so say neurologists. I often read to my partner in the evening what I had written during the day and I think we both get a lot out of it. I think he gets to know what goes on in my mind and my day; it brings us closer. It certainly gave me a lot, as I subconsciously write for him, with each sentence I write, I look forward to reading it back to him in the evening, even if it is on Skype.

The New Yorker published a deep article on The Pleasures of Being Read To. The link is here.

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Excerpt from Chapter 3, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night:

“I watched you on television once, many years ago,” she continued, looking directly into his eyes. PW felt his knees weakening, and mentally thanked God that he was sitting down, or those knees of his would have surely buckled. “Your accent, I could not get it out of my head from that moment onwards. The way you sounded made the whole Relativity, multiple universes and time travel scenario more believable, more real, and at the same time, more magical. You brought these two seemingly irreconcilable realms – reality and magic –together, like how you are trying to unify the two final contradicting worldviews of our era. Einstein’s Relativity and Quantum Field Theory. How can the right hand ever fit into the left? We could never get it, not on 2D. Before you, many have tried. It’s your voice that draws people to your story, Professor, me included. There’s something about your voice. I hear it in the words you write, and something in me blooms.”

He spoke with many tongues, but his power came, not from his words or his accent, but from his mystical ability to speak directly to the subconscious mind. The subconscious occupies a larger part of the brain than the conscious, hence PW’s power over the thinking mind.

“For us Boers, the Afrikaans language symbolises more than a sequence of words. We have a special word for language. We call it taal. It’s about our identity, our history, our kultuur. It’s our gemeenskap.”

He smiled, light flickering in his eyes. “Also, storytelling is part of our human psyche, isn’t it? Our ancestors have been doing it for millions of years, sitting round the fire telling stories about mammoths and dinosaurs that they hunted. The desire to tell stories and the desire to connect with stories are part of us all. It is our evolution.”

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Absolute Zero

In our Universe, motion and energy intimately interplay with each other, resulting in life and reality. At the place where Absolute Zero temperature prevails, this vibrancy is replaced by total stillness. All stands still. Time stops moving, and when Time equates to zero, all mathematical equations fall apart. Our reality falls apart when it tries to multiply and divide anything by zero.

“Yes, I want to build an accelerator so huge that it can be seen from the skies,” PW said. “It has always been my childhood ambition. Because at the extremes is where interesting things happen. Because each trip to the edge teaches us new things and opens our eyes to new dimensions.”

“Have you ever thought, my dearest Professor, that all is to be known is right here?” She leaned forward and lightly touched a space just above his heart. “Absolute Zero is here. In there somewhere there is zero dimensional space, the Singularity so beloved of you physicists, it is right here.”

An invisible orchestra

All entities vibrate, spin, move and hum their most fundamental level. This is the vibrancy of life. The space that you perceive as empty is actually a force field, a very busy zoo indeed, of particles coming in and out of existence and strings vibrating to some unseen conductor’s wand. Even seemingly inanimate objects – like the table, plastic cups, moon rocks, thoughts – possess this vibrancy, because all that we see in our material world is made of immaterial things once we move deeper into the realms of atoms and subatomic particles. At its most fundamental level, the Universe and all that we experience in it, is just a symphony of vibrating strings, creating a coherent music that becomes our reality.