I am not a science geek, but I am interested in the Big Questions such as How did the Universe begin and How might it end? Last night my husband and I watched a captivating tv documentary, Particle Fever, about the Large Hadron Collider built in CERN, Switzerland at a cost of billions of dollars in an effort to solve one of the big mysteries in physics…the identification of the Higgs Boson. It is the last remaining unidentified particle from The Big Bang, speculated to be the one that ties everything else in the universe together so that it works!
It would be impossible for me to summarize the documentary but I strongly recommend that you watch it if you, too, are interested in these questions. What is important to know is that the Higgs Boson was finally identified in 2013 as a result of the successful behavior of the collider, but it has characteristics that deviated from the predictions that now lead to new questions. The physicists involved are both intrigued and excited about their findings and are now working to make the Hadron Collider even more powerful so they can further test their theories. So what does this have to do with us?
I find the open-endedness of this quest provides a blueprint for my own life. While on my recent two-week holiday in Germany to celebrate my cancer remission, I visited for the third time with relatives living in Dresden whom my son discovered while a student in Berlin about fifteen years ago. My mother’s family lost touch with these relatives once the Iron Curtain became a deterrent to communication between families living in Eastern Germany and those who had migrated to America. Since our reunion in 2001, we have been in close touch. My decision to visit them (and friends in Berlin) this recent holiday season resulted from a strong desire to celebrate my one-year anniversary as a cancer survivor and our family ties.
But then something unexpected happened. After our return to the U.S., my husband told me that a late night discussion with one of the Dresden relatives revealed that the man we thought was my mother’s cousin…a blood relation…was actually adopted by my grandfather’s brother, so he is not a blood-relation at all ‘tho he does bear the same last name of his adoptive father. Unfortunately, he died this past year so I cannot talk to him about this, but I am left wondering why no one in the family said anything until now. Instead, they have all welcomed us from the start as family and have treated us with the love and generosity you might only expect from family members.
A wonderful outcome of our visit with our Dresden family is that my daughter, who was meeting this family for the first time, bonded with the grandson’s wife, and they are now in touch via email. Thus, the revelation of the new tenuous link to this family has been accompanied by newer links being formed by the younger generation. Like the scientists who were so excited about the ability of the Large Hadron Collider to provide them with new data, even though the results of the experiment are quite different from what they expected…I, too, am surprised by the revelation about my connection to this family, but excited about the possibilities of future ongoing interactions amongst all the generations made possible by that first contact.
And that, dear friends, is how I came to finally decide upon my OLW for this year…Celebrate! I considered the word Live for a while, but the effect of watching Particle Fever convinced me that I/we should celebrate all life- affirming events and the unpredictable places they lead us to in our search for meaning in our lives. My trip to Germany is the first of many celebrations I hope to experience this year and I am so happy to have this community of writers and teachers with whom I can share them!