(Chicken-pot-pie, eaten at the dinner described below...)
We were having one of our animated dinner table conversations about life, the universe, and everything, and something caused Oldest (22 and a Sophomore at the NC State College of Art and Design) to toss in the comment, "Life is for art." It took me several twists and turns in the conversation to catch his tone, and to come back, during a pause, to say to him, "You really meant that, didn't you." He just shot me a grin and that laser look in his eyes, the one that's always been his silent equivalent of, "D E F I N I T E L Y." I mentioned Oscar Wilde (who wrote that life imitates art - for example, that London hadn't been foggy until artists painted it that way...), and then the conversation moved in other directions.
But I keep coming back to his remark, and I've told the story to a number of people over the last few months.
During a recent drive to Atlanta, GA and Columbia, SC, I was listening to From Eternity to Here, and therefore thinking about space, time, entropy, determinism, Special and General Relativity, gravity, quantum mechanics, the Big Bang, and more. Several times I had to turn off the rental car's CD player to howl with laughter and delight at some revelation of how things fit together, or to gasp and stare amazed out the windshield while ideas moved around in my head and I tried to predict the twists I thought the author (Sean Carroll) might propose next. Some of it was really hard to follow (especially since I couldn't see the diagrams) - but other parts made sense to me and the epiphanies were like seeing the Grand Canyon appear through parting mists...
And during one of the noisier moments, when I was awestruck by the mathematical concepts that allow all things (even black holes - maybe especially black holes) to be described in terms of "information," it struck me that riding along with the "everything" and the "information" are complex human concepts like emotions, and philosophies, and ART. Many layers of meaning are held by creatures of great complexity and then communicated using intentional arrays of the stuff of the universe. And other people GET THE MESSAGES. The SCALE of what is going on when we describe the ineffable in a work of art... and when someone else GETS IT... From the Big Bang to this? Even when something simple, like making an image with a knife in a pie crust, is noticed by someone else (message received - even if it's not much more complex than "flower"), we are playing a marvelous, clever game in a playground incredibly rich in forces, atoms, and "information."
I could hardly breathe. I thought my smile might endanger other drivers (and leave permanent stretch marks on my face).