There's more to the beginning of the universe than a loud noise

Hermes and The Messengers of Light

          O you stars – the lover’s
Desire for the face of his beloved, does it not
Arise first from you? Isn’t his deepest response
To her pure face inspired by the pure bright stars?

        Rainer Maria Rilke, 3rd Duino Elegy (trans. Martyn Crucefix)

Once upon a time, in the beginning, before time had been shot like an arrow, when time was not even waiting and there was no space because there was no time and no time because there was no space, in the just-before-the-beginning when there was no ‘just-before’.

And then… a whisper, a fluctuation, an anomaly, a distortion. And we are at the beginning.

To a billowing ballooning inflation, a sudden-something, inconceivable potential, superhot, brooding, deep — wanting to tell itself, to send out mass communications, to verse itself into existence through pulses of light.

But these beginnings were too hot, too much; the messages of light could not pass through the vast crackling fog, snapping with charge. The expansion swelled further, the universe growing into its own cooling time, the fog clearing as hydrogen and helium formed, the first atoms pulling themselves together – and as the clearings opened, light rushed through and out, like Hermes on his winged sandals, Hermes, inventor of fire, triumphant of boundaries, messenger of the gods.

And this is still once upon a time. The beginning is almost over just as we have begun. And we have so little time. A fraction of light in which to tell a story. Let there be light.

And Hermes is loosed as photons, the messenger between particles, becoming the language for electrons and protons to meet, to be attracted like dancers around a great fire. And not just the message; he is the energy in their dance, the force of attraction, the patron of the universe’s choreography, a choreography that is almost impossible; the dancing particles always call for more partners to join, always listen out for more invitations, and the universe resounds to a cacophony of noisy meetings, never quite drowning out the music from Hermes’ lyre.

Gases cool and collapse; Hermes’ lyre falls quiet as he moves away, cooling his plucking fingers and now there’s enough silence for a nucleus to form – and the great fire ignites, a birthing sun. Hermes returns with a shout, dancing around his stolen fire, filled with the heat and light of his stories once again. He laughs at boundaries as easy to break as time and rains messages down, messages that are also messengers. For a long time later, down on our planet, circling our own luminous sun where our story has always been played out, reactions are started in photoreceptor cells, the very beginnings of eyes, mere eyespots, immersed in warm waters, filtering the visible light. These eyes evolve before the brain, for who needs a brain before there are stories?

Slowly, slowly, slower than mountains moving, slower than tectonic plates sliding over the planet’s liquid heat, eyes become cups, basins collecting the light, photons absorbed at the speed of light, and translated into electrical impulses, sparking through the nervous systems of a million new animals exploding from silence into life.

And then, with time, always with time, closer and closer, the universe of a human mind, enlightened, seeing, awake, a face turning towards the light, photons ending their million year journey in the telescoping eye, interpreting a universe that offers itself to be read, to be loved, inspired by the pure bright stars.


Written by Samuel Tongue