Some Thursday Evening Ballet Blogging for you:
Last year, Italian theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi took on the challenge of explaining the murmuration. What he found, as ably explained by my old Wired colleague Brandon Keim, is that the math equations that best describe starling movement are borrowed “from the literature of ‘criticality,’ of crystal formation and avalanches — systems poised on the brink, capable of near-instantaneous transformation.” They call it “scale-free correlation,” and it means that no matter how big the flock, “If any one bird turned and changed speed, so would all the others.”
And, of course, this ballet and the scientists’ explanation of it, remind me of this interview with Catherine Keller (tweeted by @alileighlilly):
In classical physics, nothing can happen faster than the speed of light because no signal can propagate faster than the speed of light. But what was showing its ghostly face in quantum entanglement is a kind of influence that seems to be instantaneous and seems to take place between two connected particles, no matter how far away they are. So, rather than become more and more indifferent to one another the further away they are, these particles will forever respond to each other instantaneously as though you are effecting both of them in the same way, at the same moment.
Right. It looks like, from a certain point of view, nothing is separate from anything at all. As the novelist Jeanette Winterson puts it, in her book Gut Symmetries: our separateness is a sham.
But what is a theological entanglement?
My book [laughs]. It’s a way of understanding our sometimes spooky, sometimes trustworthy, relationships… theologically.
Theological entanglement is a way of reflecting on our relationships—all of our relationships, at once, together. When we do this, we get to such an impossibly infinite place that, I think, we resort to God language. The metaphors of the divine, of a love that permeates all things instantaneously, an embrace that holds everything everywhere in its mindfulness, a spirit (even a holy ghost) that has the character of spooky action at a distance is a metaphor by which can gather our very mysterious interdependencies (as creatures) on each other.
We are constituted, in every moment, by our relations. Some of them we compose, but they comprise the conditions in which we are composed. Theological entanglement is a form of what’s called “relational theology.” Entanglement is meant to give a more physical, and spooky edge to our interconnectedness. This isn’t just about the apophasis of an infinite God, but about the element of unknowability in all of us—as creatures made in the image of the unknowable. It looks, even from the vantage point of quantum indeterminacy, that every creature has an element of the unknowable or unpredictable to it. For every electron, you’re unable to measure (simultaneously) its location and its momentum.
It’s the way that the starlings demonstrate what we’re learning about electrons and quarks. (It’s the way the camera follows us in slo-mo, the way we look to us all.) It’s what ballet is often trying to do and it’s the Mother’s saline solution to wash away from our eyes the enchantment of forgetfulness, the spell that lulls us into imagining that we are, that anything is, separate
How can anyone live on this Earth and not spend every moment in blissful awe?
As Mary Oliver Said:
Where Does the Temple Begin,
Where Does It End?
There are things you can’t reach. But
you can reach out to them, and all day long.
The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of God.
And it can keep you as busy as anything else, and happier.
The snake slides away; the fish jumps, like a little lily,
out of the water and back in; the goldfinches sing
from the unreachable top of the tree.
I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.
And thinking: maybe something will come, some
shining coil of wind,
or a few leaves from any old tree –
they are all in this too.
And now I will tell you the truth.
Everything in the world
At least, closer.
Like the nibbling, tinsel-eyed fish; the unlooping snake.
Like goldfinches, little dolls of gold
fluttering around the corner of the sky
of God, the blue air.
And, as Mary Oliver also said:
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?
May it be so for you. May it be so for the starlings who live and dance the ballet on your landbase. May it be so for ballet dancers and quarks.