Swimming in the Science of Sound

Not unlike the criminals from a Batman comic, writers are—among their many faults and virtues—a cowardly and superstitious lot. And if we writers are worth anything at all, we obsess about the oddest and coolest of minutiae.

Ever since I read Alec Wilkinson’s New Yorker  piece A Voice from the Past: How a Physicist Resurrected the Earliest Recordings I’ve been obsessing about his statement that ‘…people sometimes thought that all sounds that ever existed were still present.’ And then there was Guglielmo Marconi, the man who sent the first radio waves, who believed that if he had a sensitive enough microphone, he could hear Jesus deliver the Sermon on the Mount.

I flat-out love this idea, LOVE THIS IDEA, however unscientifically, uh, unsound it may well be. And yeah, I’ve been obsessing about it. The notion that every sound ever made is floating around us, reverberating throughout the Universe, echoing about the cosmos, and just waiting for us to pick it up with technology precise enough to capture it, is thrilling to ponder.

Then I listened to Krista Tippett’s interview with Kabbalah scholar Lawrence Kushner who (to badly condense and summarize and paraphrase) discussed the mystic belief that the act of the Universe’s creation was not a single event that occurred back there in time, but is an event that is still happening, will always be happening. There is no past, present and future, no above and below, just a present Now that is Creation in a constant state of noisy unfolding.

And the origin of this Creation? The first sound.

That subtle click that the larynx makes just before uttering a syllable. The mysterious, unknowable potential of Creation is an open note unburdened by definition or meaning reverberating now as it always has and always will.

Granted, my writer self doesn’t quite know what to make of all this. I’m not sure how or if I can incorporate these navel-gazing ideas into a story or novel. I may just have to settle for geeking out.

The seeker self, though, feels the connections mounting, the disparate ideas coalescing. It’s about now, and it’s about what’s around us right here, and it’s about being present within it all.

Swimming in sound that someday we may finally hear.