Friday, 8 April 2011

Collisions

The taxi driver seemed intent on describing recent accidents, occasions on which he had witnessed or narrowly avoided those hideous illustrations of the true relationship between high speed metal and wilderness flesh. This is no yin and yang duality, I told him, this is the material representation of the necessary tensions that underlie existence. Great forces are at work, tumult is ever-present, any thought you have of harmonious stability is either an illusion or a fleeting instant of inflexion. You think you are safe in your mobile living room - but at any moment your business may collapse, your loved ones may die, your life's work may crumble. The other driver may finally experience a lifestyle-induced coronary and the oncoming vehicle may veer wildly into your path.

He acknowledged the terrible power of war and tsunamis, of capitalist exploitation and communist control, of globe-spanning mega-corporations and media conglomerates. He did not gainsay the fragility of existence, the convulsions that befall us. The human condition, he noted, was not subject to any contractual clauses exempting us from the standard operating procedures that applied to the rest of the universe.

We both thought of the large Hadron collider - we were, after all, on the ring road - and we remembered our friend S. Had she not told us about the Higgs Boson? The Higgs Boson is the particle that is supposed to give things mass, I reminded him. It's the thing that makes matter matter. There must be some psychological analogue, she'd said. There's something that makes the things we do matter, some ethereal essence attached to each act and thought that is the reason why the things we do matter.

We pondered those images produced when particles collide, when the impossible arcs and tangents spiral for a billionth of a second, when the deep strangeness is fleetingly exposed, and we wondered - it is only through collision that the truth is exposed? Was Ballard right all along? It is only when we crash that we find out what really matters? Who we really are?

You can drop me off here, I told him. The ground seemed solid as I stepped from the cab, but I couldn't be sure.