Saturday, November 27, 2010

Inner peace, and physics

I would like to spend just a moment to extoll the virtues of physical labor. There is something deeply satisfying and peaceful about doing yardwork on a gorgeous day such as today. Gathering leaves and taking them to the compost. The only part of my self that was not enthralled with this task was my whole sinus cavity, which has been aggravated all week, so I just gave it a good nasal rinse afterwards and some more medication.

I say this as someone who does not do manual labor for a living. It might lose a touch of its sheen if it was a hours and hours-long daily grind, or if it was required for my personal survival. It wouldn't be so glamorous or such a nice break in that case. So, no, I don't wish to go back to the days when everyone had to put in a bunch of hard work from dawn till dusk. No thanks!

It is strange how, the more leisure time we have, the more we seem to lose our way spiritually, or get bored, or long for something .... else. I guess people have always been in the longing business. I can understand people longing for a relief to grinding labor, disease, violence, poverty, etc. But relief from the relative richness of the middle-class doldrums here? You can see it all around, in the types of diversions people create for themselves. I was surrounded by it in the Galleria. Who in the world has need of all that stuff? How does it enrich the world? I don't get it.

Just what do you people want that you don't already have?!! Bunch of greedy, unthankful, rotten Americans. That's the thought I admit I have. Ooh, I certainly don't mean YOU, my faithful reader. I'm talking about those other people out there. Look at them all. Bunch of whining losers.

So, if I am confessing all, I really think that of myself, too, at times. What more could I want than this amazing life that has been given to me, with all its possibilities? But still, I have desires and cravings. Caffeine! And other things, too.

I'm reading one of those books that has been waiting for me on the shelf, "The Dancing Wu Li Masters (An Overview of the New Physics)" by Gary Zukav. The premise of this book is to discuss physics while leaving out all the heavy math and technical terms that make it indecipherable to you and me. A nonphysicist wrote it.

It's not a particularly current book, published in the late '70s, I think, but many of the greatest advances in physics happened just after the turn of the last century, and some of Newton's theories (who goes back to the 1600s sometime) were not undone till still later than that. Science plods along at a pace that can seem quite ponderous.

What fascinates me about science is the whole idea that we can be objective and objectively measure anything, even while trapped in this human form and using only the evidence of our poor, limited, and even faulty senses. This book has not disappointed me in expounding on that very dilemma. The "new" quantum physics seems to conclude that there is no objective reality that is not altered by our perception of it.

That dovetails nicely with my own sensibilities. We can never be mere observers of this world around us. We are constantly participants, completely enmeshed in it, and our experiences are inseparable from our reality. It's common sense, really. We can't have the perspective of God, or a higher power, or a bystander. We are each stuck in these carbon-based lifeforms, and cannot separate ourselves from all the rest of creation. (Does that word, creation, strongly imply a creator? I guess it does.)

Another aspect of quantum physics, one of many I find fascinating, is what Einstein described as "spooky action at a distance." The idea that quanta react to far-flung phenomena instantaneously, that perhaps either space or time, or both, are illusory. Or how about this? -- the thought that we are all energy bundles, that mass and energy are essentially interchangeable, and we are all intimately connected by forces we may be unaware of. And how do you distinguish organic matter that lives from other energy forms, if we are all constructed of atoms? How do you assign a higher moral value to humanity than to any other thing in the universe, really? Lots to contemplate.

Quick, how many living things do you see in this picture? "Lots." Yeah.


  1. In addition to making my head hurt, you made me smile and contemplate :).

  2. this is all true... I am very familiar with quantum physics and its implications. I also love philosophy and naturally feel drawn to nature because we are nature, weather we want to think of that scientifically or spiritually. I agree with everything you said, now imagine how Americans are over here in New York City? I am surrounded by ignorance...


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