A Sense of the Sacred

So, I was reading that the most hardened atheist more than likely has some sort of sense of the sacred. It may be in the remembrance and contemplation of a personal past experience or as an instance in time and space when an acute awareness of the efficacious natural world transcends the mere physical. I suppose there are all sorts of possibilities.

Anyway, after reading a very convincing tome suggesting the likelihood our universe came into existence from nothing: that’s no space and no matter for that matter and certainly no creative overseer, I’ve nevertheless come to realize a sense of the sacred is and always has been a part of my reality. As exciting as the new theories and discoveries in particle physics are I still, and suspect I always will, relish the enrichments I experience from a cool breeze on a warm summer’s day that often mean more, have a greater personal significance than can be explained by science.

As I sit here surrounded by nature, despite the potential distress the wood tick crawling up my pants leg may cause and the lack of potable water to quench my thirst and the ache in my back due to an unseen mud hole, the sacred, nevertheless is present.

A Universe from Nothing

So, particle physicists and cosmologists are theorizing that there are infinitesimal universes popping into and out of existence all the time and that these universes are occurring from nothing: no space, no particles, no gravitational fields, no electro-magnetism, no laws of nature: nada, zero. These universes, they theorize, are the result of quantum fluctuations of ‘virtual particles’ (here one nano-second, gone the next). And, the thinking goes, there is a very strong likelihood that the universe within which we live may very well be an inflated version of such a universe from nothing.

I must admit this is all pretty hard for me to grasp, has me wondering about what nothing is and isn’t, among other things. Does this mean, our universe having popped into existence, that it could suddenly pop out of existence as well? If it did would the resulting vacuum suck all and everything into a very large black hole only to reconfigure as a new universe: a mirror image of its former self?

I find these ideas pretty exciting and they have me wondering about what the quantum world will show us next. I imagine, though, theologians might not like the ideas very much.

Maybe Sometimes a Good Scare isn’t such a Bad Thing

I have this friend who, fairly out of the blue, received a shocking medical diagnosis that put to question the likelihood he would be unable to carry on his chosen life-style not to mention the possibility of an all-too-sudden permanent demise. Well, upon re-evaluation the dire prognosis was over-turned and things suddenly reverted to how things had been, you know, business as usual, except, the scare of imminent demise led my friend to a re-evaluation of priorities, what, essentially does matter after all and a sudden acute awareness of Here and Now.

I guess what the shock of a good scare can do is bring Here and Now into sharper focus. And, of course, Here and Now is where we live and should be where we always want to be but often aren’t, completely, distracted as we tend to be by thoughts of what occurred last week or what will happen after dinner tonight, perceived occupational successes and failures, personal relationships, the rising cost of satisfying our material desires, our minds constantly flitting from one thing to another. We live so much of the time, it seems, in a fog through which Here and Now is only occasionally glimpsed.

The whole episode has me thinking I need to spend more time focusing on Here and Now.

What I know about Soren Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard’s dilemma was that despite his love for Regine he believed himself to be incapable of becoming a good husband, so to spare her he breaks off the engagement, telling her he was never truly serious about their relationship in the first place.

He wrote a lot about anxiety. He stated that, when we become anxious, we are overtaken with fear and trembling, as if we were on the edge of a precipice and afraid of falling. Then he said we should jump; take the leap into faith, embrace God for whom all things are possible.

He also tells us that either we shelter ourselves in the illusory belief that the individuals, doctrines and institutions we rely on for self-fulfillment are sufficient (bad) or we dismiss our worldly distractions, realize our declining physical body and face the existential horrors of life (good).

Whew!

I think he thought about things too much. He should have just gone out and had a good time once in a while.

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Worlds within Worlds

I’ve been wondering about this most incredible idea, that, quantum mechanically speaking, there may exist any number of universes. As hard as I try to visualize such an idea in my limited three-dimensional capacity to imagine spatially it all seems pretty much beyond comprehension. When I add time to the mix I can sort of get an idea of it all. After all, the world as it is right now is not quite the same as the world as it is right now. A micro-second in the past or the future might define an entirely separate reality, a parallel existence.

I wonder if these separate realities float around, bump into each other and maybe intersect for brief periods. Is it possible the remarkable sparkling landscape you saw last week was of another world never to be seen in your reality again? Maybe realities are nested within each other. Do the places you glimpse through the trees and bushes on that familiar winding trail through the woods have a certain other-worldly feel?

I find such thoughts intriguing. I revel in the possibilities, and, as long as I don’t think too hard about trying to define the multiverse in three-dimensional terms, I remain content in the limitations of my understanding.

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Getting Beyond our Virtual Reality

It appears that the very best, the only, really, reality anyone can hope for is a virtual one. Apparently our virtual world is limited to but a tiny fraction of the reality around us. Our virtual world is, I guess, the result of our need to pin down, create a static conceptual world that we, our “I”, is the center of separate from you, the other.

I do catch a glimpse, occasionally, of a richer reality which is available, according to the sage advice I’ve recently been reading, by simply ‘awakening’ to the moment, realizing with open mind what’s before me. So, what I would like to do is get better in touch with the immensity and complexity of the fluctuating, ever-changing reality that I know is out there.

I guess part of the solution may require looking past dualistic concepts like existence/non-existence which tend to lead to ideas of extinction or eternal survival, getting in the way of immediate sustained perceptual awareness. And then, too, I suppose subordinating ego, by-passing that annoying sense of ‘Self’ will also be necessary.

I will attempt, today, to embrace the moment, allow distracting concerns , past and future to pass by and stay focused in the now; no rushing around; everything in good time.

What can be Known but not Spoken Of

I understand that neuro-scientists are going to great efforts these days to make sense of what exactly constitutes consciousness. A lot of their efforts are about correlating conscious experiences, like the world view before us or our sense of time extension, with specific brain activity, what synapses fire when and where it’s all happening.

No easy task, I guess, but one particular difficulty these researchers are having is how to deal with extreme subtleties of consciousness, those experiences that defy verbal representation, like the aesthetic response one might have when hearing a particular musical refrain or the ineffable responses to the smell of flowers on a spring day. To make matters even more difficult the same sounds or the same odor may not elicit the same conscious response experienced a second time.

It seems to me reducing conscious experience to specific brain activity isn’t necessarily a desirable enterprise anyway. Perhaps allowing the ineffable to remain ineffable is a breath of fresh air.

And Then Nature Took Its Course

I’m being led to understand, through some quite credible readings, that it’s likely physiological variations, like elevated heart rate or shortness of breath or even a stubbed toe precede emotional states; which means, I guess, one might be more likely to develop romantic feelings for a jogging partner or feel an excessive animosity for an athletic opponent after spraining an ankle.

So, I was thinking about this after my bi-weekly exercise regimen the other day when it occurred to me that I did indeed feel a sense of bonding with and good will toward my companions, nothing romantic you understand, but a familial closeness with the good people in our group. Whether I would have developed those same feelings had our relationships developed as, say, library board members I don’t know but I do kind of doubt it. I suppose one could over-intellectualize the issue, debating which came first the heart palpitations or the feelings but better, I think, to just keep exercising and let nature take its course.

How Everything Inter-connects

So I’ve been reading that the idea of cause and effect is not a necessarily local process, one thing following another in a relatively straight forward manner related to time sequences and spatial proximity; that an occurrence in one place, at one time has ramifications not only for what universally will be but what has been throughout time as well.

I guess it all has to do with quantum physical theory, that subatomic entities exist simultaneously as two things, particles and waves and these most basic of material building blocks defy logical analysis, interacting non-locally with other entities, shifting what has and will occur as entropy moves them to action. Or something. But all of this leads to the absolutely mind-blowing idea that what I do right now, right here, affects everything that ever was, is or will be.

As counter-intuitive as this may seem there is certainly something enlightening about the idea. If I can realize my impact and connectedness in relation to the world around me and then act accordingly it can only be a good thing.

 

Timelessness

I’ve been trying to make sense of the idea of a timeless universe. I get that in our local reality, that is the reality around us we experience every day, change is occurring constantly and to make sense of it all we apply the notion of time; you know, this happened and now I’m here and maybe soon that will occur if such and such doesn’t interfere although one can never discount the serendipitous….. and so forth. If the only reality is now, the past no longer, the future yet to be, then the passage of time is an illusion because ‘now’ is all that there can be.

Science informs us of the beginning of it all, the big bang and the expanding universe and the day in the future when the last star in the heavens will blink out leaving eternal darkness, but the numbers that are applied to such theory are beyond astronomically large. All such conjecture uses time as a theoretical postulate, the numbers are simply too big to be real (pragmatically if not mathematically).

It all makes me think I need to concentrate more on the immediate.