BEWARE INVISIBLE COWS: my search for the soul of the universe
Published by Simon and Schuster, spring 2009.
This is all started one day in New York when I was thinking about a novel to do with a group of scientists actually proving how the universe started.
No, that doesn’t seem quite right. It started the day my twin brother, Unc, showed me how to telephone a flying saucer.
No, that doesn’t seem right either. It started… The truth is it is hard to know how any book really starts (I’m not talking about the first sentence). You have to keep re-winding. If you keep going long enough, several billion years, you end up right back at the beginning, the birth of the universe.
And that is how this book got started. Obsessing about how anything really gets started. This is a hard book to summarize. I’ve come up with a few one-sentence snapshots:
Everything everyone everywhere ever wanted to know about everything. A cross between Kerouac’s On the Road and Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. The universe and all that surrounds it. (A joke stolen from Peter Cook) A video-diary approach to the history of the universe without the video.
This is the slightly longer summary:
‘Andy Martin sets out on a road trip to search for the source of the universe. In his personal quest for the mother of all truth, he has to go all the way back to the birth of time
and space. He climbs up to the highest observatory in the world and sticks his head inside a 4 km-long laser tube capable of surfing waves from the Big Bang. He sees himself the way he used to be in a mirror and he discovers where you go when you die. He has close encounters with aliens and intimations of immortality. This book has it all – science, philosophy,
literature, religion, Einstein, Weinstein, God, the Godfather, all seen through a glass darkly.’
A word about the title. It was when I was driving up a mountain in Hawaii to get to the highest observatory in the world that I drove by a sign saying BEWARE INVISIBLE COWS.
And the more I thought about this the more mind-blowing it became – as I went on I kept looking around for these invisible cows and of course I could never see them, since it was
in their nature to be invisible, and therefore there were probably whole herds of them invisibly roaming about the place. And it struck me that it was like an allegory of our
search for truth – that the thing we are looking for is always tantalizingly beyond our grasp. I thought that either I had hallucinated the road sign – something to do with a lack
of oxygen as I went higher up the mountain – or it was some kind of mystic transcendental warning from above. This is how I remembered it…
And then, a few weeks ago, somebody helpfully sent a photograph of the original roadsign. Here it is:
Clearly, I missed out the ‘of’, which I think is a plus. But it turns out that the whole thing really was about ‘dark colored cows’, and how you should be careful not to drive into them. Which rather brought me and my vision crashing down to earth. Still I’m going to hold on to that title. I never did see any cows on that mountain so I cling to the view that they really are invisible.