Picture utter emptiness, a.k.a., the void.
Never mind the fact that there is no Earth yet, there isn't even a universe.
Were you an observer, you would be observing -- nothing.
Or rather, nothingness.
And if you tried to picture wind or stars or water, you could not give form or texture to your emotions. [[p.3]
Unbeknownst to you [especially because you do not exist yet] there is something here though.
And he wants to create the universe.
You turn the page, and read the following: Almost immediately, it seemed, my aunt Penelope asked me why I would want to do such a thing.
You have entered the speculative non-world of Alan Lightman's Mr. g.
In this pre-universe void, the creator has an aunt and uncle, the latter of which we meet in the next few sentences. Naturally, this presupposes parents, too. Has anyone ever existed, that had an aunt and uncle, but no parents? Lightman does this, I believe, to immediately relieve us of the idea that any of this is real. Yet, what follows in the book is about everything that we know to be real.
Mr. g follows through with his desire, and creates the universe -- but he's new at this, even making a few blunders in his first tries. He's tired of The Void, and his aunt and uncle and their constant bickering.
He settles on a few "organizational principles."
First, symmetry of position and moment. In other words, "time" -- which has not previously existed.
Secondly, there would be no absolutes, only relatives. Principles of motion, tying time and space together. "A particular period of time would signify a particular distance in space, with the proportionality between the two being a fundamental speed of the universe."
Thirdly, the principle that every event should be necessarily caused by a previous event without which it would not have happened. Causality.
He sets these things in motion, and sort of, lets them be, adding a touch here and there to certain aesthetic proportions etc., and giving shape and order to matter.
What Mr. g discovers is that a flurry of unpredicted things happen as a result of these laws being put in motion -- things that evolve without his further intervention.
Not everywhere, but on advantageously positioned planets in his universe, life evolves -- followed by consciousness. Thinking. Religions -- none of which are ever able to correctly find their way back to the First Cause.
Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva urge him to make himself known to the self-conscious beings, that he may be properly admired for his work.
But Mr. g never concedes to this wish, although he is often tempted to do so. He feels compassion for the created beings, but is aware that they will never be able to fully understand anything that is beyond the universe they find themselves to be a part of.
Alan Lightman is a theoretical physicist as well as a novel-writer, and while the facts presented do correspond to what we currently understand about the origin of the universe, the book is a novel, and meant to be read as such. It is a wonderful, often amusing speculation, and entertaining.
I enjoyed it. I bet even Mr. g himself would say… "Well done!"