The Fibonacci Sequence begins with 0, with nothing. And according to cosmology, mythology, and physics, nothing might be the perfect place to begin. Around 13.7 billion years ago, the Big Bang spat out the universe which formed, and continues to expand, a universe that is full of particles and galaxies, that “may thus be a quantum fluctuation out of nothing” concluded Frank Close’s Nothing, A Very Short Introduction.
Like the Big Bang, mythology has always fascinated me; stories emerging from the deep past, exploring the world though the fantastical. When I was little, mythology seemed to expand the world so that my little self could comprehend the bigger picture. As I grow, science evokes a similar feeling, stretching time and space, so that we can begin to grasp the vastness that surrounds us. Science and mythology simultaneously tackle the mystery of our origins, portraying theories and stories in which everything we know comes from nothing —even ourselves: the Anishinaabe peoples believed humans to be “made out of nothing”
The concept that an inexplicable event began the universe stretches from science to ancient mythology, and to religions with stories of creation reminiscent of the Big Bang. In the Abrahamic religions, the Genesis stories describe a world that was, according to the Islamic tradition, “created out of nothing by God’s word kun (‘Be’).” And in other traditions, nothing, or darkness or the void, give birth to the world: “In the beginning all was darkness (Te Po)” the Māori beginning myth depicts, “encompassing everything was a womb of emptiness, an intangible void (Te Kore).” Even similar to the birth of the universe in Classical mythology, as retold by Edith Hamilton:
“There was only the formless confusion of Chaos brooded over by unbroken darkness. At last, but how no one ever tried to explain, two children were born to this shapeless nothingness. Night was the child of Chaos and so was Erebus, which is the unfathomable depth where death dwells. In the whole universe there was nothing else; all was black, empty, silent, endless. From darkness and from death Love was born, and with its birth, order and beauty began to banish blind confusion.”
Despite the eons since the Big Bang, the void —what we don’t yet comprehend— still exists. Despite all of our time and stories and knowledge, the planets and stars and galaxies we’ve discovered, we only comprehend about 5% of the observable universe. A giant part of this void in our understanding is dark matter and dark energy: “ninety-five percent of the mass of the universe [is] something we can’t even see, and yet it moves us. It draws us. It creates galaxies.” Said physicist and astronomer Natalie Batalha in an On Being interview.
Batalha made the analogy that dark matter is like love, something “we can’t see, that we don’t understand yet. It’s everywhere and it moves us. And science has given me that perspective, but also in very logistical, tangible, practical ways…when you study science, you step out of planet Earth. You look back down at this blue sphere and you see a world with no borders.”
“The Introvert in the Window” ends with the Fibonacci Sequence, with 0, with nothing, the void. A void that invites us to gather up curiosity and dive into the tangled connections —the scientific theories and stories and paintings— that glue together our experience just like dark matter glues the universe together and “keeps us circling a common centre, / Stops us spinning off into the void.” Wrote the late physicist and poet Rebecca Elson in her poem Dark Matter.
One year ago, I began “The Introvert in the Window” with Audre Lorde’s words “a year seems like a lot of time now at this end —it isn’t”. Here I am one year later, and her words still ring true. In this year, a year created of moments, of overwhelming and surprising moments, moments that invite us to question and stretch our understandings; moments that invite us to “step out of planet Earth”, and moments to look back at times and places and people that connect our experiences as we hurtle through the void, together, on our borderless blue dot.
Listen to the essay below: