We depend on constancy in our day to day lives. We'd be lost if the sun
didn't rise at the same time each day, even though it doesn't. We often
fall back on a routine when the world
throws us a curve
we just aren't prepared to handle.
Thank God there's something we can count on.
That's not to say that we want everything to
stay the same in our lives.
We grow. We learn. We evolve. But deep down, we depend on the bedrock of
our existence to be there when we need it.
Perhaps in an attempt to simplify, we look for constancy around us.
Sometimes we insist that it is there, when it is not.
We pretend that
the dollar in our hands is the same as it was a year ago, and will be
the same a year hence. Sometimes we deny it, when it
We do not take politicians to task when they point to a year of "fiscal
surplus" while the national debt increases each and every year. Perhaps
we prefer in that case the familiar meta-constancy of knowing that
politicians will always lie to us.
We've also found some amazing phenomena which exult in their absolute lack
We discovered transcendental numbers which take
pride in being always different, always surprising any who think they
might, at some point, do something they've done before.
Mother Nature hides constancy and pseudo-constancy in her varied manifestations.
We think of large natural structures on Earth as being constant. We see the
mountain as everlasting, but as always, a change of scale can completely change
our perceptions. All the while we think of it as eternally unmoving, we see
it bleeding away its substance as silt in the stream we use to grow our crops.
Then, one day, the volcano within erupts and we have to abruptly
change our picture of the stable landscape to the one our children and
grandchildren will know.
Over larger expanses, and through longer spans of time, we used to think we
found constancy when we gazed into the cosmos. The North Pole star,
Polaris, seemed to have a special relationship with Earth, but we now
know that Thuban and Vega are awaiting their turns to guide Boy Scouts
of the future.
We tend to think of natural structures as being rough, or randomly formed.
We see or hear perfect order and we think
"No way that's not man-made". We
marvel at the regularity and precision of our electronic watches, but
forget about the quartz heart beating inside of it, or the atom of cesium
doing its thing in Boulder, Colorado. We don't think about the picosecond
calculations being performed so that our GPS receiver can tell us exactly
how to get back to the car after we've scrambled up and down the rocky mountain
faces an hour outside of town.
That atomic clock seems like a candidate for the epitome of constancy,
but come back in three hundred thousand years, and you might find that it's
gained (or lost) a second. (How you'd know that is out of the scope of this
At the other end of the size scale, we found pulsars and
Cepheids with which you could time various events from how long it
takes a window to crack, to the length of your annual vacation. But they, too,
shall fall out of their rut eventually.
Failing to find any at the
very largest and very smallest that we can
comprehend, we may just have to decide that there is no source of
absolute constancy in our physical universe. Perhaps absolute constancy is
the property that makes God God. Maybe that is why mathematicians claim to
have gazed upon His face when they've peered into the infinitesimal interstices
in their continuaa, which, contrary to past belief, are no longer considered
an accurate map to our quantized universe.
So, is there anything in this world that is truly constant? When I'm standing
at the Pearly Gates, I'll be sure to ask Petrus. If he's still there.