Forget About My Troubles, I'm Bathtub Gazing
A layperson's take on the bigger questions
As someone who still marvels at real-time conversation with people on the other side of the world, I question how we can possibly have begun as amoebae? Hovering above the bath foam my toe curls around the chrome plug control. I’m in my peaceful place where I languish contentedly, distracting myself from the daily stresses of our global pandemic.
I recall a Maths A level class from long ago on the infernally unfathomable calculus with our teacher fondly known as Mr Monday. She began by slapping a fat lever arch folder on the desk in front of me proclaiming, “here’s the rest of your syllabus, you’ve got 6 weeks to learn it!” As we waded hopelessly through the confusing theory, she looked up from under her neatly bowl-trimmed fringe and said with a wry smile “Think about it, did we create mathematics, or does it predate us as part of the grand design of the universe, just waiting to be discovered?” That has lived with me, uncomfortably unanswered, ever since.
I delight in the strobing sunlight glinting in my eye with every turn of the external wall fan. If the theory of the origin of the species is to be believed, I marvel at our epic journey from the primordial soup, via writhing lizards to monkeys, to the lofty heights of civilised man, or should that be ‘person’ (that is, if we ignore The Jeremy Kyle Show and ISIS). And now here I am, surely a fine representation of said species, soaking in the foaming mountain of aromatic bubble bath in my cheap, yet finely crafted faux marble bathroom. Its walls give me endless Freudian picturescapes on which to project my effortlessly sophisticated subconscious.
Still on the complexity of man I ask myself whether we can really believe that some great bearded deity simply waved a holy scepter to bring our intricate world into existence? Not that I’m the argumentative type (I am of course, very much so), but isn’t it equally ridiculous to suggest that all this tremendousness came about from a couple of atoms crashing together in a great void? This is a concept in which, prior to the “big bang”, neither the existence of the original molecules nor the void itself can be explained. Something beyond our comprehension therefore lies at the base of both of these theories. Which then also makes me ask why is it so outlandish to believe that life could exist on another planet? After all, if scientific and wider opinion is rooted in the theory of evolution, and the infinite galaxies that surround us have been around just about forever, then surely the likelihood that there are several parallel universes is fairly high?
If we consider the vast overview of time immemorial, our existence, just as the demise of the humble Dodo, came about in the blink of an eye. The earth is supposed to be 4.5 billion years old (how did they ever work that out, I mean just look at the accuracy of weather predictions!) but let us assume it is accurate. In which case, if you compress the entire history of the earth into a single year, apparently the first Neanderthal only appears an hour before the year’s end, and flat screen TVs in the last 7 seconds; a fascinating perspective, surely. Neneh Cherry’s eponymous song pops into my head.
Contemplating the vastness of things drives home to me how small we are. Yet we are not insignificant. Our human endeavor has, after all, unfurled magnificent secrets that have enabled us to rule the world (if destroying our environment in the process), prolong our lives and create such progressive sustenance as the Vegan Magnum. I do find it comforting though that our pioneering science will eventually mitigate, if not crush, this unprecedented, mysterious coronavirus, and hopefully all the ones yet to come.
My attention drifts to a wall tile near the shower-head. The shape of a man with a trilby, peering shiftily to one side, emerges from the dappled grey, beige and white marbling. I think of Bogart in Casablanca. It’s amazing the assortment of things that appear each time I examine these tiles, from Red Indian chiefs to bespectacled mutts. If Freud is right, and my emotions are guiding my perception, I wonder what deep subconscious motives can be directing me towards a Hollywood icon from the 1940s. Failing to identify a source, I observe instead what a clever design these tiles are. Each parades as unique when in fact the marbled effect is clearly a repeated pattern! Does that reflect human nature I ponder?
I shift myself slightly in the deep heat of the bathtub and let out a deep sigh. Alas, I know there are no answers, just guesses, however educated they may be. It seems we’ve either been given or evolved this complex consciousness just to beat ourselves with. How much musing can one do in one bath…