Seven wonders of existence

It is little wonder, in the light of what we know, that our cause to wonder changes, indeed grows, in the light of what we come to know. It should be of no surprise then to find that official listings of the ‘Seven wonders of …’ remain inadequate despite their range. Fortunately, Wikipedia offers a suitably democratic forum for further resolution; after all, ‘a wonder’ can only belong to the mind that wonders, and cannot be prescribed by an authority that tells us what to wonder about – a point emphasised by no less of a mind than that of Albert Einstein.

It is with some bewilderment then, that I find cause to wonder about a conspicuous omission from Wikipedia’s coverage. Despite all the interest, I can find no listing for the wonders of the universe or existence? Nor can I find evidence elsewhere for the topics being addressed separately. Therefore I am moved to fill the gap with some interim suggestions, in humble recognition of the fact that this is not a task I can accomplish on my own. So I would like to get the ball rolling by making the following tentative suggestions for a provisional listing of the ‘Seven wonders of the universe’, which I see as being a subset of a bigger issue, namely, the ‘Seven wonders of existence’ – a topic which I felt a little more able to expand upon below:

Seven wonders of the universe

1. The ‘big bang’/ inflation
2. Space-time
3. Gravity/ strings/ branes
4. Stars, galaxies and black holes
5. Dark matter/ energy
6. Quantum uncertainty
7. Lawfulness/ order

Seven wonders of existence

Preamble: In compiling this list I am mindful that the notion of ‘wonders of existence’ evokes the related idea of a mystery. And in this centenary year of Einstein’s enduring masterwork, it might be fitting to defer to the master’s insight – that although wonder is the driving force of inquiry, no amount of discovery is likely to prove sufficient to do away with the need for ever more discovery, or our underlying awe of the persisting mystery of it all. Suffice it for me to add the following observation: that we cannot dispel the mystery of existence by finding out how it works, since the facts can show how it works only because it exists.

1. Energy: The universal presence, prime mover and perpetuator. The formless former. We ‘understand it’ as ‘a thing’ in transition – a beginning with no discernible beginning, the progenitor of other beginnings – the ‘sub-thing’ at the source of all things, which we associate with things as they are and then as they change again to become more than they were.

2. Matter: The form of ‘the thing’ seen as its substantive nature and explained as a conversion of energy. A locus of space and time wherein the physical earth exhibits dimensionality whilst being one thing and another in a relativistic state of reality – massive yet diminutive, solid yet filled with space, inert yet brimming with life – risen of a darkness and oblivion that is now filled with light and thought.

3. Life: The synergy of structure, function and organisation within a motility appearing as a radical change in the nature of nature – re-animating it with need, drive, motivation and purpose – adorning the material universe with properties that were hitherto absent from and alien to its character and reflecting the inexplicable fact that every living thing is made of stardust coming to life, yet it all remains as it was beneath the surface, unliving and unchanged.

4. ‘Being’: The pivot of reality. The larger character of things. An evolved state. The perceived nature of ‘reality’ manifest as a pattern of activity built upon previous patterns. We see the process of becoming in the shaping of reality; but it is not possible to predict the shape of things to come by examining the possibilities obtaining beforehand – as if the nature of dust can reveal the nature of life.

5. Awareness: Sight seeking insight. The subject of subjectivity – vacillating between awareness ‘of’ and awareness ‘in’. Being beholds itself in awareness, forming the sense of ‘I’ and locating its recognition in a source seen as giving rise to the perception, which is also the way regard is paid to an outside world. Nevertheless, there is more to awareness than its rendition as a ‘self’ contrived in the desire for its own perception; but to the extent that we obsess over ‘self-awareness’ we lose the ability to see perception as anything other than a fact owing to its object – which is, in the case of ourselves, ‘ourselves’ – in a self we feel obliged to look for as a part of a world that apparently doesn’t know it is being observed.

6. Mind: The font of meaning and belief. The differentiation of awareness into conscious thought. The purposive selector. The arbiter of the arbitrary. The agent of knowledge, deliberation and realisation known to itself as the person. Knowledge introduces the paradox of the knower choosing to know whilst deferring to the facts for an authority they do not have – as if the facts tell us what to know – a stratagem that breaks down spectacularly in the bid to know ourselves. In the same vein we try to reduce our ethical deliberations to independent matters of logic and reason, as if to put them in charge. However, the expansion of the mind (and reality) involved in getting to know suggests that our minds are adumbrated by something bigger, which doesn’t belong to the facts that remain oblivious to what is known about them.

7. Power: The capacity to be. The possibility for there to be possibilities. The ineffable isness that is simultaneously one thing and another, nothing and all things. The dynamic fulcrum of stability and change moving between nothing and something, chaos and order, cause and effect, chance and synchronisation, oblivion and knowledge. Things in existence occupy a power in being which we tend to ascribe to the process of becoming, yet in everything we know of ourselves and the rest of existence, we discover that it is all remains a mere reflection of a greater power to be – an holistic power that is at least sentient, because we are.

Mike Laidler

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