What's my secret ingredient to add meaning to the holidays? I find inspiration in ordinary events and share my thoughts with friends and family. Below is my "Christmas Letter" for 2011, entitled "Strings for Thought."
Strings for Thought
Christmas lights twinkled, sleigh bells jingled and tufts of dog fluff drifted like snowflakes across our kitchen floor. I didn't want to bake fuzzy sugar cookies. Time for the family werewolf to receive a serious brushing. Did our home always have to look as if dog hair was the basic particle of the universe?
Then I watched a program about string theory, and not the sort showing newbie cooks how to hog-tie a twenty-four pound holiday turkey with twine and stuff the thing into an eighteen-pound-capacity roasting pan. This program dealt with that yet unproven idea about the identity of our universe's real basic building block. And what might that theoretical construction material be? No, not dog hair. Strings. To be precise, ultra-miniscule vibrating strands of energy called strings.
I visualized a gigantic ball of string, or maybe one of red-and-green ribbon, dangling somewhere in space and sloughing off an endless supply of sub-atomic particles, all of them doing the shimmy to 1950's doo-wop rock. Supposedly, those building-block strings vibrated in a multitude of ways and the vibrating behavior of each had important consequences related to the character of matter. Well, that gave the old expression, "good vibes," a new meaning. You are what you dance.
But all of this had no practical connection to me, or to Christmas, or to ridding my house of dog hair, did it? The panel of scientists shown on my computer screen ignored my question, even when I raised my hand. Still, I listened to what those learned men and women had to say.
Essentially, for many years, Einstein had unsuccessfully sought a grand and beautiful overlying principle to link gravity (the force which increases the probability a fragile glass ornament will break if you drop it over a tile floor) with electromagnetism (the force which increases the probability you will hear "Frosty the Snowman" during the month of December). Modern physicists continued to ask Santa for such a unifying theory, one that also incorporated those forces gluing together the internal anatomy of atoms. So far, Santa had put lumps of carbon in all those inquiring scientist's stockings.
But back to the ball of string. When my daughter, Alicia, had attended preschool, I'd read her a children's book, "A Big Ball of String." Many years before Alicia's birth, her brothers had enjoyed the same story. "I can do anything with a big ball of string," the book's main character claimed. If string theory was correct -- and no way to experimentally prove or disprove the idea had yet been discovered -- might our universe have started with a dense collection of inky-dinky threads? Had the Big Bang been a cosmic version of the Christmas Cracker or party popper?
And if, early on, God had initiated the creation process using a huge number of super-small strings, were my own vibrations still in tune? Perhaps, I should stop fretting about dog hair and contemplate my true music this holiday season and beyond.
Warm wishes this holiday season,
Laurel Anne Hill (Author of "Heroes Arise")
Causes Laurel Hill Supports
Winter Nights Shelter and Shelter, Inc.