Beauty Revisioned

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Course Ideas / Science

A pitfall in our thinking is the notion that there is a fixed place at which we are destined to arrive- (I can’t avoid noting the obvious link between the terms destiny and destination)- a condition to realize that will be immune to change, an ideal state to occupy or embody.  Alas, there is not.  At the same time, I do think the Truth is constant.  Identity, properly construed, is constant.  I think that we inevitably discover in our Heart(s) a fixed Identity that we share, but we too often forget that what is changeless cannot be defined or bounded.  We mistakenly imagine Changelessness as something finite- the never-changing melody of our favorite song, the never-changing flavor of our favorite cola, the consistently-remembered circumstances of the favorite period of our life.  We too often fail to grasp the fact that what is Changeless is infinite.  It can never fully occupy a description, a concept, or anything finite whatsoever.  It won’t fit.  The word, the language, the place, the time, the personality- they simply won’t hold It.

To discover the Truth of who we are is to encounter endlessness.

In forgetting that the most effective means of giving infinite changelessness a voice is through the medium of continuous, finite change, we try to make the medium of communication- the clay- into the reality, instead of remembering that the Reality- the intangible Changelessness- is that which is being communicated, the boundless Heart of Creation.  This is the folly of misperception, and the underpinning of our belief in the validity of separation, for what is being communicated is always Whole, though the medium of communication is perpetually giving rise to the illusion of parts.

We can try to impose an alternate perception on events, but there is something about the Reality in which we are dealing that inevitably shatters false concepts.  Oh my, it is glorious to watch our false concepts crash and burn!  One way this occurs, is through the practice of science.  You may not view yourself as overly scientific, or find the topic all that relevant, but I will say two things about that: first, there is no way to return Home, to your rightful place as a changeless, eternal Identity, without a bit of cognitive discipline; second, science is a delectable mirror that very faithfully returns a picture of a culture or society’s ideals of Truth and Beauty.  Regarding the former, the power of science is it’s insistence on following a disciplined approach to engaging with the unknown.  There is power in adhering to principle.  With respect to the latter, our idealized images of Truth and Beauty are inevitably found wanting, and as every generation’s “Answers” to the ageless questions begin to crumble, we find ourselves looking down the loaded barrel of Truth once again, begging for a fresh experiment.

Science is like this Quixotic quest to understand what is, by beginning with the notion that what is, is measurable and repeatable.  (Gulp.)  Is not this very notion fraught with difficulty?  Difficulties aside, the process of following this thread to ground instructs us about who we are- if we would let it.  I am reminded of Ladinsky’s translation of a poem by Hafiz that says, “Few can escape self-made traps… And when a person falls into one, it is natural to call out for help.  If you attend such a plea, take someone like me along as a safety rope or ladder… just in case you slip.”  It is all about our interpretation, our perception, our willingness to read between the lines.  If we loosen the reigns of interpretation a bit, we find the residue of Formless Changelessness at every turn.

My introduction has gone on too long, but I want to offer an example of the way our very best science shatters false concepts, and suggests the primordial Purpose of using a medium of continuous, finite change to simulate our Reality of infinite Changelessness.  The physics at our disposal prior to the 20th century was both beautiful and deterministic.  The linkages between cause and effect were clear.  It was symmetrical in time- could be run both forwards and backwards with equal reliability.  Nature followed a perfect order, a mathematical precision, all ultimately linked by this mysterious “action at a distance”- an attraction of matter for all other matter that we called gravity.  It was both mystical and profound.  Is this not Love- the desire of matter for all other matter?  The memory of Connection?

We find in hindsight a worldview replete with the seeds of its own undoing- the suggestion that the connection we called gravity was communicated across vast distances with infinite speed.  We have to forgive our naivete, however, for even this made a certain sense.  Was this not the obvious evidence of a Divine Force?  It was beautiful…  We didn’t realize that to have a working simulation of infinite changelessness, you can’t have everything communicated instantaneously.  To simulate simultaneity, you need a Universe filled with lag.  It needs to be chasing its tail somewhat.  A problem with the Newtonian world was that such a world had no room for inexplicability, no means of deviating from the path laid before it…  The whole Universe was like a vast pool table: if we knew the starting velocities and positions of every billiard ball, we could predict with precision it’s outcome.  There was no room for uncertainty…  There was no way for us to be free…  At some level, we couldn’t accept it…

This image was exploded in the 20th century with the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics.  Regardless of whether we thought the previous world concept was beautiful or not, it was wrong.  The discipline of science required us to admit: reality was not so clean or straightforward as we had once thought, not so logical…  It was a wave that hit the shore in discrete, localized pulses.  It was tiny bits of matter that behaved, individually, like waves interfering with themselves.  The physics of the 20th century brought the introduction of uncertainty, imposed a speed limit upon the communication of gravity, and suggested that Nature at a fundamental level was governed by probabilities.  This stung, but we are resilient, and soon we were using this adolescent science to explain everything from luck to consciousness, such is our desire to know and understand.  Meanwhile, considerable efforts were made to preserve the integrity of our disturbing experimental observations without losing the deterministic, reliable picture of Nature we used to enjoy…  Soon, in definitive experiments, we found out: Nature is spookier than we thought.

What does that mean about us?  Are we the product of random chance, the hapless byproducts of intermingled luck and circumstance?  We abhor the thought that we are, fundamentally, random.  We abhor meaninglessness, and rightfully so!  I love, on the other hand, to reflect upon the fact that we are the living ramification of Inexplicability!

Recently, in efforts to explain how living matter could exist, or have emerged, we found that Nature is indeed, in it’s heart of hearts, a sea of probabilities.  It has been shown that when a lot of particles get together and interact, something strange can occur…  Every such system contains trap doors, hidden resonances we could not have predicted, that shift their dynamics into ever more complex modes of behavior.  The math of these resonances is divergent, meaning we can’t see inside of it.  We can’t see what they may contain.  What I find amazing about this discovery is that we have found that what shatters the predictable, Newtonian world into a world of probability is non-local resonance in systems, a resonance that arises and is communicated via sustained interaction of many elements together.  We still have something spooky here.  A “new” spookiness.

We have gained a messy world, a world with speed bumps, warts and unspeakable oddities, a world seemingly random and unpredictable- but is this not precisely the type of world an infinite Changelessness might require to engage within?  Doesn’t a world of seeming precision that is embedded with hidden points of access make a certain sense?  This is the science of anything could happen…  It is miraculous and beautiful…  And yet, if I stand on principle, I have to accept that this, too, maybe sooner than later, will be dismantled and replaced by new understanding.

But we should not be worried.  Our meaning is not derived from explanations of the finite.  As residual falsehood embedded in the old ideas is wrung out, our notions of Beauty will be perpetually in a state of revision… even as who we are is found to be eternally Changeless.  An irrascible Truth dressed up in matter…

5 Comments

  1. I don’t know if I can express what came to me as I was reading this…I wondered if the spookiness was evolving as we are – the old rules are true as they are perceived to be true and then the rules change because of our expanding perceptiveness. It makes sense inside of me, but how can I explain what I mean…it seems possible that the rules of the science of the universe are responding to our understanding as we gain it. Or perhaps I’m talking like a late-night stoner, though I am not high 🙂

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    • Marga, you have no idea how close you are to a conversation I had with a friend a week or so ago, as I was thinking about this piece. We were talking about the idea that maybe reality has all of these rules embedded within it simultaneously, and we simply draw them out, make them known, but then also sometimes cement them into place in a way that obscures other possibilities. We can get stuck and not keep exploring the other rules contained in the whole.

      I was imagining the world as being filled with dormant inner workings that are simply awaiting the arrival of our “knowing”, which would then unlock them.

      We were wondering, is an entirely new experience latent within the world around us? I think there probably is, but I don’t personally think it is a rewriting of what we once knew or discovered, I think it is all in there, within Creation, and as we learn to perceive it truly, it seems the rules shift around and underneath us. We realize what we thought was true wasn’t the entire picture, and wonder how we ever believed it…

      I think, in a sense, Newton’s laws of gravity will always be “right” for what they were, as right as they ever could have been, but there may be other laws that simply haven’t been engaged with or activated that we have yet to even dream about. Well of course some we have, or are learning to, but those aren’t the end either, right? I love this type of thought…

      Michael

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  2. Nature is spookier than we thought.

    I have been looking into Nature for quite some time. And more recently, how quantum mechanics upended all that we thought we knew about what was really going on.

    I don’t know a lot, but I have been interesting in knowing more. Have you ever seen What the Bleep Do We Know? Probably a very watered down version of the things you know…but…it’s a good start for me. I love physics, but haven’t applied enough of my mental faculties to REALLY understanding it. I do collect a lot of physics books…one of these days I’ll dig into them deeply.

    I’ve been having some really weird synchronicities in my life. More than just once in a while, but ALL the time. And some really weird dreams…

    http://thesprightlywriter.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/dream-sequence-part-iii-the-strangest-dreams/

    I’m either going crazy (quite possible), or my views on things are changing and it’s becoming apparent in my dreams.

    I think science is awesome…and I still keep throwing around the idea I want to start a science club for my daughters and their friends…maybe in springtime…

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  3. “In forgetting that the most effective means of giving infinite changelessness a voice is through the medium of continuous, finite change, we try to make the medium of communication- the clay- into the reality, instead of remembering that the Reality- the intangible Changelessness- is that which is being communicated, the boundless Heart of Creation.”

    lol

    That is a Mentat sentence after my own heart! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentat

    Cognitive discipline is a beautiful thing, even if what we are focused on is full of holes, the ability to focus itself can be priceless!

    When I stand on the edge of the cliff overlooking a raging sea, my heart cannot be helped but to succumb to a state of awe and wonderment regardless of if in that moment I cannot remember a single equation having to do with waves. 🙂 http://terrytao.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/the-shallow-water-wave-equation-and-tsunami-propagation/

    May we continue to crash and sizzle as often and as quickly as we need to. Burn baby burn!
    -x.M

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    • In such moments of nautical enchantment, I say we pretend the wave equation never happened. We can pick it up later, when we’re in the company of those who feel it right and good to be able to explain precisely HOW it all happens as it does…

      Mentat, eh? This is the second look-up tonight! And I see we’re back to Dune. I really need to finish my Pynchon so I can reread that sucker… Although I read a stunning passage of Pynchon the other night… It was all about the wave equation, (closer than you would think!), and Rays from the sky, and a conscious wind that foiled our protagonist in the desert of the Far East.

      Michael

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