Music, Higgs Boson, and Feud | Sojourners

Music, Higgs Boson, and Feud

I haven't written about the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle yet. I think I posted about it on Facebook or Pinterest or somewhere like that. I'm excited by the discovery. Actually, I'm excited by discovery in general. Discovery is good stewardship. This particular discovery is particularly intriguing (Get it? I used "particular" since we're talking about particles! I'm so clever in the morning.).

So, let me begin with a simple prayer. I want to get into this a bit.

God of the moon, God of the sun,
God of the globe, God of the stars,
God of the waters, the land, and the skies,
Who ordained to us the King of promise.

It was Mary fair who went upon her knee,
It was the King of life who went upon her lap,
Darkness and tears were set behind,
And the star of guidance went up early.

Illumed the land, illumed the world,
Illumed doldrum and current,
Grief was laid and joy was raised,
Music was set up with harp and pedal harp.

Someone somewhere suggested that the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson particle renewed the ongoing feud between science and religion. I want to frame this a bit. You know science and religion cannot feud, right? I mean, science doesn't walk down the street one day in coal country when it spies religion coming the other way..."Varmint! We're a'feudin'!" A shot is heard. Someone screams. It'd make for a fun movie, but really?

People feud. Some scientists and some religious people get all worked up when such discoveries are made. Subjects like religion and science cannot feud. This totalizing approach is bunk. Let's let it go, shall we? Let's talk about the people, instead.

NPR recently ran a little story about a particle physicist who is also a musician. Domenico Vicinanza wrote a little composition in honor of this newly discovered particle. Being a pretty decent mathematician (I never made it past Trig), he named points on the graph with pitches (Western scale ...) and set them to play. Apparently you can get the piece as a ringtone! 

Who am I kidding? Of course we'll turn it into a ringtone. I may have to download it. I'm utterly entranced.

Once upon a time in Western history, music was a form of science, or at least one way to explain it. The "spheres" vibrated, made music if you will. The music of the spheres was a template for discovery, the very basis for cosmology and physics. The theory was, of course, debunked. It couldn't contain the scattershot chaos of the universe. But this music, the arpeggiated plinking of this composition has me. I'm lost in my imagination.

There is music to be made. Perhaps there is music to be discovered.

The instrumentation has changed from fortepiano to particle accelerator, but there it is. No longer the lyre or psaltery of the ancient stories, but something enormous buried in the ground of Western Europe, a tremendous harp made of conduit and light.

God's angels sing in a cosmic choir and Mary joins in. "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord ..." She sings. Jesus, the Song of The Universe made Flesh, the WORD, is in creation. Mary sings him, births him. And instead of a feud we're invited to lay aside grief, we're encouraged to take up joy, to pick up a harp (or particle accelerator), a pedal harp and join in the song. "Can't you hear? Can't you hear those freedom bells ringing?"

No longer concentric circles in easy resonance with one another, but an apocalyptic symphony that would set even John Cage's head to spinning. The whole universe is singing ... even the Deep Dark has a song.



Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.