Imagine, if you will, a time before time, 13.7 billion years ago. [i] The four fundamental forces—gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force—abide, properly speaking, as a single, unified force with no differentiation. Everything that is, is huddled tightly together. The universe (which can’t yet really properly be described as a universe) is the size of a pinprick. All is static and immobile.
I am a terrible basketball player, maybe the world’s worst. That is not an exaggeration. When I was seven years old, my mother registered me for a summer basketball camp. Each morning camp began with a simple warmup in which all the boys dribbled the ball up and down the court, first walking, then trotting, then finally running as if on a fast break. I can still recall the flummoxed look on the coach’s face when I, during the slow-walk part of the drill, couldn’t keep the ball under my hand after the second dribble.