The desire to trace your way back to the very beginning, to understand everything — whether it’s the mysteries of love or the mechanics of the universe — is deeply human. It might also be deeply flawed.
In this short, Jad and Robert talk to a writer and two physicists who are all grappling with versions of the same enormous question: is it possible to understand everything, or are we chasing an impossible dream… one built on questions that always lead to more questions?
Jenny Hollowell kicks things off with her gorgeous short story “A History of Everything, Including You.” It’s a powerful tale with a sweeping scope — the history not just of one couple, but everything that led to them — distilled into a poetic crush of just a few pages. The piece was born out of a sense of frustration Jenny felt about trying to account for “everything” in order to understand her life. And in many ways, her solution speaks to an eerily similar moment of uncertainty in physics. Inspired by an essay written by physicist and novelist Alan Lightman, Robert pays a visit to Brian Greene to ask if the latest developments in theoretical physics spell a crisis for science — where we find we’ve reached the limit of what we can see and test, and are left with mathematical equations that can’t be verified by experiments or observation.
- Jenny Hollowell’s “A History of Everything, Including You” can be found in the anthology New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories from America and Beyond
- Alan Lightman’s essay for Harper’s Magazine “The Accidental Universe: Science’s crisis of faith“