May 10, 2012

Why?, Why

A caffeine addled mind will go places, strange places, twisting and turning down treacherous intellectual switchbacks. And we like that, as a people. We like that, we always have, and probably, we always will. That is, after all, a large part of the coffee shop identity. We picture people asking the big questions, and straining to try and answer them, from Voltaire to that guy who really, really ought to consider bathing soon.

How? Why? What if?

I talked today with a long time customer, and a recent physics graduate. He is smart, as you might guess, but not just in that he knows things. Anyone can recite answers others have found; intelligence is finding them, and in knowing how to use them. He is quite skilled in the latter, and thus presented a rather articulate defense, when questioned by another customer, of gravity, and how we can really know it exists.

Principally, the query was driven by particles, and how we can only understand gravity as it relates to them. However, gravity is supposed to have existed since existence, whereas particles came later. So, how then can we claim that this same gravity existed, when our only frame of reference for its existence hadn't yet come about?

He's not here now, and I'm not going to track him down or ask that he repeat his answer. But he had one, and it sounded good, at least to the extent that I understood it. I should say, probably, that I've never taken a physics class, and very nearly failed the only astronomy course I did take. I was an English major, after all, and sometimes stereotypes ring true.

But his answer isn't really important anyway; that the conversation happened is. His big questions are not my big questions, and neither of ours are likely to be yours. My questions are found in a bronze layer of crema, and the answers too. I want to know how fast I can run up that hill (any hill, really), and how many rosettas I can fit in one cup (3, as of now).

But this isn't about my questions either. This is about the venue that allows those questions to be asked, entertained, debated, and generally passed around until the edges are tattered and yellow. This is about coffee, and coffee shops, and the sort of thing you can't make at home, no matter how good your beans, grinder, or brewer. This is about people, conversation, and how coffee makes them come together beautifully. This is about the answer to a pretty big question everyone asks: Why do I do what I do?

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