Have you ever wondered about balance? I don’t mean the thing that you lose after one or two drinks, or the way you’re supposed to mix leafy greens, complex carbs, and protein in a meal. I mean the way that a guilty paedophile can get let off his crimes, only to be killed by a hit and run driver on his way out of the courthouse; or how your next-door neighbours won the lottery in late 2007, but they banked with Northern Rock.
No, of course you haven’t. Because those things never happen.
But they should, shouldn’t they? There should be some kind of cosmic force that redresses the balance between good and evil, between rich and poor.
The thing is, there used to be. Eons ago, the universe was a just place. What changed, I couldn’t tell you. It’s not that I don’t know — I just can’t tell you. The important thing is that the hangover from those days still exists. Nature, in her inscrutable way, is still trying. Scientists call it entropy, various religions have many more names for it: karma is perhaps the most obvious one.
The point is, it’s real. Not all of it, obviously, but the general idea — do unto others, or reincarnation, even entropy, or whatever. They all take their root from the same basic principle. The only real constant.
Nature abhors an imbalance.
That’s it. That’s the only completely true thing. Everything else you know, everything you’ve been told, or things you believe, or interesting concepts you’ve heard of in fantasy novels or science podcasts or down the pub with Geoffrey — the accountant who apparently moonlights as one of those guys who thinks if you spew the right kind of signals into space that aliens will come back — everything else is just a perversion of that truth. Which perversion you listen to, and for what reasons, basically determines what political party you follow, what religion you subscribe to, and whether or not the universal truth is too buried into your subconscious mind to have a bearing on your actions.
That’s the other interesting thing. Everyone knows about the truth. Most people just don’t know they know.
There are a couple of things you’ll need to understand for much of what follows to make sense. You don’t have to believe them, but if you understand why some people think like this, it’ll make the whole storytelling process much easier.
First thing’s first, who am I? That’s actually wholly unimportant. You can think of me as an omnipresent narrator — an angel, or a sprite, or some dark matter — whatever your particular belief system allows for. The important thing is that I’m Knowledgeable. That’s right, with a capital K. I Know things.
Secondly, why am I telling you? That’s a better question. I’m not going to answer it though. Let me get to the end of my story, and if you still have to ask… well I guess I picked the wrong person to tell.
Now, onto the good stuff. What you need to understand is that nature is a conscious thing. I don’t mean like Gaia, or Mother Nature, or wood nymphs. Though if thinking of it like that makes things easier for you, then fine. Neither do I meant that there is a monotheistic, omnipotent presence that decides things and pulls strings and makes things happen. Perhaps entropy is a better example. Don’t understand entropy? Get a glass of water, add a few drops of squash to it. Notice how the whole glass of liquid goes from being clear to a paler version of whatever colour the squash was? That’s entropy. Well, not really — entropy as your scientists describe it has to do with temperature and the speed of vibrating strings inside atoms. But this way of understanding it doesn’t require a degree in thermonuclear dynamics. Plus, now you have a glass of squash you can drink if you get thirsty.
The point is that the water and the squash concentrate balanced each other out — as best they could — to create a liquid that is a good mix of concentrate and water such that when you drink it, it tastes relatively uniform for the whole glass. You could, if you had the time and the patience, separate out the liquid back into water and concentrate. Nothing inherently changed about either of them; the liquids just took it upon themselves to rearrange into a broadly even mixture.
Why did it do that? Water and squash concentrate are not sentient objects, are they? (No, they aren’t, don’t worry yourselves about the moral implications of drinking squash.) But something caused them to decide to rearrange.
That is the main difference between science, religion, and the ‘truth’. Religion has no interest in the comings and goings of squash concentrate molecules, and so is unfit for purpose in our little story. Science is too concerned with the mechanics — the how of the thing — to really consider the why. Science has no place talking about — for lack of a better word — the spirituality of the squash. The important point is that there is a force throughout the universe that dictates things like how to mix water and squash, that isn’t sentient. It does what it does because it is striving for balance. Or rather, the removal of imbalance.
That is the other thing — balance, and the absence of imbalance, are two separate aims. Acted out to their respective conclusions, they are the same end. But it is the difference between getting into a taxi and asking to get away from a place, and getting in a taxi and asking to go somewhere. The end result is the same — the vehicle will leave where it is, and go to somewhere else. But the intention behind the action is different in each case.
So those are the three things you need to understand. The truth: that nature abhors an imbalance. Nature, in this case, is a conscious, though not sentient, force. And imbalance is a state of being that is not balanced.
Conscious, though not sentient? Again, a difference in definitions. Let’s say you work for a large company, and you’re in middle management. Maybe you work in HR. Or statistical analysis and data reconfiguration, perhaps. You have the ability to tell others what to do. You aren’t, however, invited to board meetings. You don’t have any control over the direction of the business. That’s what nature is like — it has control over things, but no real say in the direction of the universe.
Don’t worry, it’s a lot to take in.
You should probably drink that squash.