Capturing the Elusive Echo of Why

1 / 3
Current state of the Superconducting Super Collider site in Waxahachie, Texas. This is a view of the Magnet Development Laboratory building, with other buildings visible in the background.
2 / 3
The intangibility and omnipresence of God in Alcoholics Anonymous' twelve-step program raises questions of how completely we can know the universe.
3 / 3
As we seek an answer to The Big Question, we continually find that more is unknown than is known.

The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man. — Wittgenstein, Tractatus 6.43

In an alternate world, the Superconducting Super Collider would have been housed in a squat gray block in Waxahachie, Texas, but instead the overbudget and behind-schedule dream of it died in the fall of 1993. Beneath the building, there still lie the unfinished tunnels — which eventually would have spanned a 54-mile ellipse — around which protons would have raced through massive magnets at high energies and crashed together over and over and over again, the ghostly aftereffects of their collisions revealing glimpses of the unseeable.

Had the SSC been built, the United States may well have been host to the discovery of the Higgs boson — also known as the God Particle — a discovery that would perhaps have happened even sooner than the announcement in 2012 by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, that earned Peter Higgs the Nobel.

The history of the SSC, the world’s most expensive and advanced physics experiment that never was, is interesting and complicated but I’m going to boil it down for now to this: Republicans in Congress viewed spending money on smashing elementary particles together to gain new knowledge about the universe and everything in it as extravagant. As Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) said in 1993, “I doubt anyone believes that the most pressing issues facing the nation include an insufficient understanding of the origins of the universe.”

For nearly 20 years thereafter, the husk of the abandoned SSC sat outside Waxahachie, accumulating graffiti and used only for “alcohol and drug parties,” by one account. The SSC would have been bigger and more ambitious than the Large Hadron Collider built by CERN. By far. The possibility of discovery that the SSC project represented became instead a sign of decline: the U.S. would not lead the world in this scientific arena; Waxahachie would not be the site of this historic undertaking, but would spend two decades waiting for someone to occupy the building. (In 2012, around the time the Higgs was being announced by CERN, a local chemical company named Magnablend bought the SSC. They kept the acronym, calling the facility their Specialty Services Complex, renovated it, and put it to use — despite public fears and a 2015 chemical leak that resulted in an explosion and evacuation — so in this way, the building remained a place in which substances are changed into other substances.)

The AA meeting I went to was not in Waxahachie but farther east, in a low, lonely building with corrugated metal siding and a conspicuous sign. The wood-paneled, linoleum-lined room with its folding tables and chairs recalled the upstairs of the fire station in the town where I grew up, which was where I attended Boy Scouts meetings for a couple years. On one of the first evenings I attended AA, the topic was, approximately, “What the 12th Step Means to You.” The 12th step is about carrying AA’s message to the alcoholic who still suffers after one has had “a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps.” When it came my turn to speak — it was a small group and, barring verbalized abstention, everyone spoke — I tried to go honestly at the heart of the thing I had been struggling with about AA. I named myself, confessed or diagnosed I was an alcoholic, and admitted I’d only been coming to meetings for a week or so. Thus, I had nothing to say about the 12th step, but what I was looking at and really resisting was the underlying premise most explicitly stated in Step 3, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

Taking the leap from I have a problem and could use help to there is a beneficent force (God as I understand Him) who is the help I seek was too much for me. Intellectually, on all levels — it opened up this whole thing where I felt like a liar looking at the proposition that there was a God and that He was willing to help me if only I’d let Him, and being a liar was a pretty big percentage of what I was seeking help for. And so I said as much at the meeting: the process along the steps involves God, which even as I heard others speak about their struggles with this part of it, even as I read the Big Book’s chapter to the agnostic, I just couldn’t get around the issue of positing any version of God. All I thought or felt on that score was uncertainty (really, at best, a contorted version of Kierkegaard’s paradoxical “Knight of Faith,” whom he calls “the only happy man”: knowing solidly there is no God and yet believing in Him — or, for me, more like the idea of orderly natural laws governing existence — despite that knowledge, despite any evidence). I felt fucking lost. And I was thanked.

A woman directed her comments to me shortly thereafter — I knew it was me because there were only two other new people and the others were mostly in the 15 or 20 or even 30-plus years of sobriety camp. She basically said: You don’t need to figure it out. You don’t need to understand any type of God at all to get through the steps. You might go through them and wait a long time before you have what the steps call “a spiritual awakening” — a result, not a prerequisite. 

And — though this looks to be answering a mystery with another mystery — I appreciated it. It wasn’t like AA wanted anything from me. That’s one of the good things about the program: no one is forcing anything on you, no one wants you to do anything other than Keep Coming Back.

Except. At the close of every meeting, there is a prayer circle: the Lord’s Prayer (Our father who art in heaven). This troubled me. Something about it all being too unscientific, yes, but also the paranoid sense that though everyone stressed the requisite God was whatever I chose to submit my will to — one man suggested my dog could be my higher power — it was just fancy semantic camo for a Christian worldview. Though “God as I understood Him/Her/It” ostensibly allowed for my dog to be my God, it didn’t allow for an understanding of no God, and they still asked me to lead off the nightly closing prayer, a prayer from my Catholic childhood, whose imploring orison “Give us this day our daily bread” hung on a fanciful scroll print in my mother’s kitchen.

Maybe I let my head get in my way, as they say. Maybe I should have shut up and listened more. And maybe if I had, I could have done what I’d come there to do, which was not simply to not drink, but rather to discover the secret to lasting sobriety, to change what I knew about myself and how I understood my own drinking, its deep cause.

There was more to it than just God, but I stopped going.

“God Particle”is not the preferred nomenclature.

The Higgs boson is a very particular, key member of the few fundamental particles that make up all we know. These bosons, or subatomic particles, exist everywhere, a vast invisible field of them through which all other particles — those of matter — move: a sort of texture whose drag on matter in motion causes mass. These bosons allow matter to combine, to connect, to accrete into the vast complexities we know and see and sense and are. 

The existence of the Higgs boson — the keystone of the standard model of quantum mechanics — was first theorized in the middle of the 20th century. Theoretical physicists envision what is, what must be, long before experimental physics confirms or denies it. Einstein’s relativity, Hawking’s black holes, Higgs’ boson: these are possible answers to difficult and far-reaching questions about problems that cannot easily — if at all — be observed, but are testable. The Large Hadron Collider and the aborted Superconducting Super Collider are huge, complicated experiments aimed at elucidating truth on the tiniest scale.

Why the existence or nonexistence of this almost invisible entity matters, why experimental proof of its reality is worth tremendous cost and years of work, why its ability to illuminate the shadows of our “insufficient understanding of the origins of the universe” is an urgent concern to humanity as is the Higgs’ role in confirming or refuting the best explanation(s) of the universe contemporary physics has to offer: namely what is called supersymmetry. A recent New York Times article, “A Crisis at the Edge of Physics,” summarizes this in simple terms:

Supersymmetry predicts the existence of a “partner” particle for every particle that we currently know. … The theory is elegant mathematically, and the particles whose existence it predicts might also explain the universe’s unaccounted-for “dark matter.”

In his book The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene explains that the possibility of showing that the universe “is as it is” by necessity would mean we have answered deep questions about our existence, and perhaps have achieved Einstein’s idea of a unified field theory, or what is called the Theory of Everything (ToE), which Greene refers to as “the Holy Grail of modern physics.” 

Supersymmetry could connect the general theory of relativity with quantum mechanics — i.e., the explanations that only work for really big stuff and the explanations that only work for really small stuff — and thereby articulate a theory of everything. This would show that there is a necessary reason for our universe’s existing, an underlying inevitability: everything is as it is because it absolutely must be so; it couldn’t possibly be any other way. In an alternate world, the multiverse view — in which our universe is only one of many — would instead show that “everything that is the case” for us, our “totality of facts,” is but one of an infinite number of possibilities, and since everything is possible we can never know the underlying explanation for our universe existing as it is, can’t ever find the deep cause, the ultimate wherefore. At the level of first principles, everything is as it is just by random chance and could be — elsewhere is — an infinite number of other ways.

So, “God Particle” might not be the preferred way of describing the Higgs boson, but it is not all that wrong, maybe, to suggest that the empirical confirmation of supersymmetry would validate, to quote Einstein, a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality or intelligibility of the world [that] lies behind all scientific work of a higher order. This firm belief, a belief bound up with deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.

If the evidence pointed toward things being as they are out of necessity, physics would have to face the uncomfortable so-called “fine-tuning problem”: that existence has been carefully orchestrated precisely so we can have our rich subjective experiences of sunsets and orgasms and Rothko’s paintings, and if things are so precisely arranged that we do, indeed, exist — that all matter, all “that which is the case,” exists — then the seemingly unavoidable answer to the Big Why would, in fact, be God (as physics understood Him).

However, as Antony Flew notes in his introduction to the anniversary edition of God and Philosophy, this notion of a God compatible with contemporary science would be closest to an Aristotelian or Spinozistic God, meaning not “an omniscient and omnipotent personal being unceasingly observing human thought and human conduct” but instead “lack[ing] concern with human behavior” who “leaves nature and its creatures … entirely to their own devices.”

Brian Greene, in objecting to the above, is careful to observe that the supposed fine-tuning of the universe is only ex post facto evidence of cause: That we find ourselves in a universe where conditions are set just right for our existence does not mean someone made a universe especially for us, but only that we wouldn’t be here to observe any other type of universe.

In September of 1993, which as it happens was a month before Congress officially ended the SSC project, my friend Mike died in a car crash.

I wasn’t in the car, was 12 at the time, so I can never know the details of the crash — though the story of the aftermath was read aloud to me by the school psychologist (perhaps not knowing how detailed the news article was, perhaps thinking openness and clarity were helpful, salubrious), from the injuries sustained to the cause (no seatbelt) to post-accident trauma to hours spent at the hospital — but I have reconstructed them over and over again. I have tried to know, from its effects, the moment itself. I can see the car, see them in the car, see the approach to the intersection. Was it the noise of three adolescent boys that distracted the grandmother driving, did she pull out too soon, driven on by their loud laughter? Or was the car Sunday-morning silent? Was it the sun that blinded her? Did she miscalculate the speed of the oncoming RV? Was the mistake not hers but the other driver’s, despite the report that she failed to stop?

Mike’s death is the first cause I choose to tell myself, have chosen to identify and believe in. But really it is a convenient explanation at best, an adolescent self-image, a way of comporting myself in relation to a great deal of pain and sadness and change and uncertainty. It is, simply, a more compelling origin story. It’s not that it’s not true; it is that, as Wittgenstein says in the Tractatus, “A picture agrees with reality or fails to agree; it is correct or incorrect, true or false.” It is an elegant solution, but it may very easily prove to be falsified by experience.

As has been observed elsewhere — for instance, in “The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous” by Gabrielle Glaser — AA’s treatment program is not scientific but spiritual in nature. Despite the Big Book’s labeling of alcohol abuse as a disease, the effort at the heart of the AA program has little to do with medical science, maybe excepting psychology. Science is a domain that aims to be purely objective in its explanatory description of reality; the spirit is a way of talking about our subjective experience of reality.

Karl Popper, in his book Logic of Scientific Discovery, enunciates what he calls the “distinguishing mark” separating “science from metaphysical speculation,” that is to say, “not the verifiability but the falsifiability of a system is to be taken as a criterion of demarcation.” In other words, what makes “all swans are white” a scientific and not metaphysical statement is not that I can go see a white swan and prove it, but that it is conceivable I could observe a black swan and disprove it.

The logical positivists — whose work Popper was trying to critique and replace — used the criterion of verifiability to show that metaphysical concepts (i.e., God) were not the fit subject of philosophy or science, and that these concepts — per Wittgenstein’s famous seventh proposition — were to be “passed over in silence.” The concept of God cannot be tested and observed and verified and thus is meaningless; “God is good” is as much a nonsense utterance as “Recalcitrant unicorns prefer buttercream frosting.” Popper is careful to jettison the idea of meaning (or meaninglessness), and points to logic to require that modus tollens be applicable to any scientific theory. (As in: if P then Q; not-Q; therefore not-P. If we win today’s game then we get ice cream. Since we did not get ice cream, you can infer we lost the game — but don’t condescend to us that old cliché, it’s not W or L but how you play the game.) If a theory cannot be tested, namely contradicted, by experience, it is not a scientific (though not necessarily a meaningless) one. God is, by definition, both an unverifiable and unfalsifiable concept, meaningless to the Positivists but simply metaphysical and unscientific for Popper.

The aforementioned Times article “A Crisis at the Edge of Physics” addresses the physicists George Ellis’ and Joseph Silk’s worries that their peers will abandon the empirical method and the (now-octogenarian) criterion of falsifiability if experiments fail to provide the answers they hope for:

To date, no supersymmetric particles have been found. If the Large Hadron Collider cannot detect these particles, many physicists will declare supersymmetry — and, by extension, string theory — just another beautiful idea in physics that didn’t pan out. But many won’t. Some may choose instead to simply retune their models to predict supersymmetric particles at masses beyond the reach of the Large Hadron Collider’s power of detection — and that of any foreseeable substitute.

They worry that by abandoning the criterion of falsifiability, physics will lose public trust. But clearly there is also the risk that theoretical physics would slip past Popper’s demarcation and into metaphysics, where untestable concepts about the deep nature of existence would be on essentially equal footing with:

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

My arrestwas not in Texas but New Mexico, almost 10 years before I voluntarily Came In. It’s a longer story, but I’d been drinking at the philosophy reading group my friends and I had started up; we were talking about the Tractatus. The officer gave me a field sobriety test, and my panicked heart had me feeling wholly sober. I don’t know what I looked like touching my nose and walking heel to toe, but he then asked me to take a breathalyzer. It read wrong once, but of the two times he had me blow into it, one was enough to handcuff me and put me in the backseat. I waited there for at least a half hour, handcuffed, while another officer came (along with a high school kid doing a ride-along for whose benefit I was made to take a third breathalyzer test) and the arresting officer called my girlfriend to come get my car and explained how she could get me, the bail money she’d need to bring to keep me from spending the night in jail.

I sat for several hours in a crowded holding cell with no amenities but a central drain in the concrete floor, which after a time I did avail myself of, pissing in the company of my compatriots down a lidless black hole. As I sat there, conversing with the drunk man to my right, the domestic abuse arrest to my left, what I failed to see was that I was not alone, that we were all in fact together in that cell, that evening, that to understand myself a bit better I could see and hear and know them, their stories, whatever it was they called the cause of them ending up beside me. I completely failed to see myself sitting there, to see that this might not be a pure accident, this arrest, a random Lucretius-like swerving of atoms. That maybe I should be listening a little bit harder, looking for the ghostly presence of something fundamental that had been disturbed by the experience.  

Though there was only the one arrest, there were plenty of other nights, careening home over curbs and through red lights, drives submerged beneath the blackout curtain. Obviously it could have been worse, could have been a story about a crash, for instance. There is a problem with writing about something that didn’t happen: I can’t discover anything in the echoes of the collisions that never happened. There is simply no way of knowing whether things are as they are, went as they did, because they could not have done otherwise; there is also no way of knowing whether the events that make up my past happened of necessity or were merely accidental.

My last night out, all I remember before the blackout was the humiliating question “Are you sure you’re OK to drive?” before I got in my car. (This is how the blackout works: I don’t know what the context was for this question, not fully. I am left with just the clear sense that I was more drunk than those I’d been drinking with. I don’t know if there was an attempt to take my keys. I discover traces along the edge of this memory that my answer to this question likely falsified my claim that I was fine. I wouldn’t know if, indeed, I had been driven home, dropped off; if I handed over my keys to my well-meaning friend. All I knew the next day was that I would avoid this friend, unsure what interaction we’d had and unwilling to slam up against any aftermath.)

After the arrest,it was mandatory community service, classes, and counseling. My service was pulling weeds at an eldercare facility. One octogenarian woman offered to pay me, and though I repeatedly told her she didn’t have to pay anything she gave me $10 before she let me leave. Her TV was so loud she couldn’t hear when I knocked to say I’d finished. The small enclosure behind her unit was thick with thigh-high weeds; an overturned Rubbermaid trash can was clouded with black widow webs, the spider the size of a dime, its bright red hourglass on its black belly luminous amid all that gauzy dark.

Before I got assigned any counseling, I had to fill out a questionnaire and confab with a substance-abuse specialist. Sitting in my cubicle checking boxes on the form, I overheard a man next to me complaining that he didn’t understand what he was supposed to do. He called someone over and she started helping him by reading out the questions:

“How often do you drink?”

“Every fucking night!”

“Okay, and how many drinks — one or two, or more than three?”

“Shit, I drink a fucking case!”

I thought, Nice job, asshole: they’re going to have you in counseling every fucking day. My own form was a fiction, though one I found compelling and, in its way, accurate: I didn’t have a problem and didn’t need any alcohol counseling. The only question I could honestly answer was whether I ever needed a morning drink to face the day. Through this questionnaire and my self-serving narrative to the substance-abuse social worker, I was ordered to complete the minimum.

The minimum was a once-a-week group session. It was led by a former drinker and AA devotee who seemed to enjoy indulging in used-to-drink-everyone-under-the-table braggadocio. There was only one time at the group counseling session where I told what might have been a lie, though it felt true, about an infidelity that had maybe only ever been imagined, a problem that had not truly been discovered. It seemed like the counselor was trying to elicit causes — she asked us to identify things that “pushed our buttons” — though I didn’t feel exactly like what I said was a cause of anything, even if it were true.

I would bike to the group counseling session, sit through an experience I chose to believe was disconnected from me, then bike home and drink, entertaining my friends with crazy lines delivered by drug addicts and alcoholics, men with anger issues who were prone to violence. It only occurred to me many years later that while I laughed at the idiot who proudly answered his way into the maximum amount of mandatory counseling, I was actually the one missing the point of the form: to reflect the truth of my drinking back at me, to show me what was everywhere and affecting everything but which I could not see.

I doubted anyone believed that the most pressing issues facing my life included an insufficient understanding of the nature and origins of my drinking.

My friend Mike and I used to sit at the back of the bus, rapping. As school started in the late summer of ’93, we memorized Onyx’s “Slam,” and I recall reciting the lyrics with him over and over again until the older girls we occasionally tried to impress would get annoyed and hit one or both of us. Bu-bu-bu-but wait it gets worse / I’m not watered down so I’m dying of thirst.

I have driven the road where Mike died thousands of times, thought of him as I stopped and then advanced out into the intersection where I believed it had happened, where Molasses Hill spills out across Route 20 in western New York. But it didn’t happen there. It was a different intersection, farther east.

Recently, aware my memory was only an approximation, I went back and reread the article in the Buffalo News — perhaps not the exact one read aloud to me in September of 1993 — which was an awful experience. It not only challenged my picture of the accident, it gave me a new, recreated picture. An unwanted one, but a slightly clearer one. (The article also detailed a second, separate fatal accident involving a drunk driver, who survived the accident he’d caused after a swerve.)

I don’t claim to understand Mike’s death better now; if anything I feel even less convinced there is any meaning to be extracted at all, any understanding about anything. As B.S. Johnson says in The Unfortunates, “Can any death be meaningful? / Or meaningless? Are these terms one can use about death? / I don’t know, I just feel the pain, the pain.”

Physicists theorize the universe is mostly made up of dark matter, the mysterious dark partners to the particles we know and a massive amount of dark energy accelerating the universe’s rapid expansion. This is recent, the answer to a problem discovered in 1998 when the Hubble Telescope showed the universe expanding at a rate that was faster, rather than slower (as expected, because: gravity should pull matter together and slow the explosive motion set off by the Big Bang) than its early rates of expansion.

As NASA says in answer to its own question (“What is dark energy?”), “More is unknown than is known.” CERN’s discovery of the Higgs boson ended up being an inconclusive revelation: it did not yet provide an answer to the Theory of Everything, has not yet proved to be any type of grail. The mass of the Higgs neither falsified nor verified supersymmetry or the multiverse model.

As of June 3, 2015, the Large Hadron Collider is up and running again after a two-year, post-Higgs-discovery hiatus. For three years, continually, it will cause collisions — around a billion every second — at a higher energy (13 TeV), nearly double the first run. One of the hopes of the LHC is that it will reveal undiscovered — unsought — particles and clues to the nature of dark matter, even dark energy. There is a hope for a “new physics,” the possibility of a post-Einsteinian understanding of gravity, the grail of the ToE. It’s possible the initial lower rate of energy made the discovery of the Higgs less precise; perhaps a definite answer to the supersymmetry-or-multiverse question is forthcoming: necessary or accidental, order or chaos.

Had the Superconducting Super Collider been completed in Waxahachie, it would have smashed protons together at more than three times the energy the LHC is now running at. Right there, in north-central Texas, a picture might have formed. A resonant image of the true nature of the universe. We might have seen the God Particle, might have proved its existence, might have shown — through great effort — that the human mind is capable of accurately knowing the essence of existence. Who knows what we might have found out.

Blacking outbears with it a distinct shame: it is not what you’ve done but rather the impossibility of knowing what you’ve done that makes the blackout so awful. It’s not the known nor the known unknown but the unknown unknown.

A blackout is a lightless zone where the drinker is, effectively, an amnesiac. Like the invisible black hole at the center of our own galaxy, it is the self, the essence of our being, that has collapsed into irremediable mystery. Experience is not blunted but buried, not obtunded but obruted. We don’t record impressions of our actions, and so we are — in the philosophical sense — zombies: unconscious actors. But, as journalist John Ericson suggests, “If something doesn’t stick, have I really experienced it?” He goes on:

Blacking out is always bad news, because it is more or less synonymous with losing your mind for a substantial period of time. During a black out, you approach every new context as a blank, inaccessible slate, incapable of forming any hard memories. And without that, who are you?

Who are you indeed. This is not just the Jekyll-Hyde thing, but the deeper terror of realizing that if you are not you, then you are arguably nothing. This is the inversion of Descartes’s cogito ergo sum: without any mental pictures of the experiences, there is only an ontological lacuna. You’ve drunk yourself to a state beyond reckoning; you’ve crossed an event horizon past which no memories, no impressions, no ideas, no regrets, no feelings, nothing at all will ever come back. In a significant sense you cease to exist.

Being arresteddidn’t change anything. And there were other moments of potential recognition — an accident where I was rear-ended but fled the scene, despite my then-girlfriend-now-wife saying her neck hurt, because I was drunk; a night in the ER after I’d drunkenly sliced the tip of my thumb off and opened an artery — that remained in darkness.

After I went to the AA meeting, my wife and I talked about years of grievances she’d accumulated of which I was (willfully) unaware. She asked me what I thought, what I expected to happen on nights like the last one when I headed out for the bar; she asked if I went there knowingly, intentionally meaning to bring about the end she could foresee every time. I answered her, honestly, that I had no idea. That every single blackout seemed a surprise, a shock, the cycle and the recurrence part of a mostly unexamined life. She knew what the effects would be from witnessing the cause, where all I ever knew was ex post facto, and even then it tended to be incomplete.

It was not that there were no problems when I drank alone — I mostly drank alone. I had learned to be blind to the way my behavior affected me; the way it affected my wife was harder to not see. These periodic and repetitious collisions troubled the waters of existence as I’d known it. Only by crashing my problem full force into her life could I disturb the ether of our relationship enough to discover what was otherwise ever-present but invisible to me.

There’s a kindof Ptolemaic self-centered perspective that is not uncommon — is even endemic — among those in The Rooms. The hope is that, through submission, a fearless moral inventory, making amends, and finally being of service, one can change one’s perception, undergo a type of Copernican shift.

In An Introduction to Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus,” G. E. M. Anscombe relates an anecdote where Wittgenstein once asked her, “Why do people say that it was natural to think the sun went round the earth rather than that the earth turned on its axis?” She answered, “I suppose, because it looked as if the sun went round the earth.” “Well,” he pressed, “what would it have looked like if it had looked as if the earth turned on its axis?” It is natural to think everyone orbits me, because it looks that way; what would it look like if I was a satellite to everyone else — my wife, our daughter?

I suspect the depths to which I am mired in my own limited perception, my own inadequate understanding, are the consequence as much as the cause of my problems; that learning to see things aright, to embrace the atomic swerve, to be a character in other narratives rather than the author of my own, might be what AA could have shown me. Had I stuck with it, I might have extracted some echo, some fragmentary understanding of what is, ultimately, the most basic of all questions: Why? I might have had the chance to understand the world as it is independent of me, to see even the passing shadow of something far greater than myself, even if instantiated in a particle thought to be 10-17m, a resonance that decays as soon as it is created.

Michael Sheehan teaches creative writing at Stpehen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Conjunctions, Necessary Fiction, The Sakura Review, Heavy Feather Review, and elsewhere, and his essays, reviews, and interviews have appeared in The Rumpus, The Quarterly Conversation, The Sonora review, and Diagram. Reprinted from Agni (No.84), a literary journal published twice a year by Boston University.

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.