Monday, March 27, 2023

Connection, Resemblance and Order

"The aspect of external nature, as it presents itself in its generality to thoughtful contemplation, is that of unity in diversity, and of connection, resemblance and order, among created things most dissimilar in their form; — one fair harmonious whole. To seize this unity and this harmony, amid such an immense assemblage of objects and forces — to embrace alike the discoveries of the earliest ages and those of our own time — and to analyse the details of phenomena without sinking under their mass — are efforts of human reason, in the path wherein it is given to man to press towards the full comprehension of nature, to unveil a portion of her secrets, and, by the force of thought, to subject, so to speak, to his intellectual dominion, the rough materials which he collects by observation."

Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859)
Cosmos: A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Serene Illumination

"Serene illumination, or just sitting, is not a technique, or a means to some resulting higher state of consciousness, or any particular state of being. Just sitting, one simply meets the immediate present. Desiring some flashy experience, or anything more or other than 'this' is mere worldly vanity and craving... Just sitting does not involve reaching some understanding. It is the subtle activity of allowing all things to be completely at rest just as they are, not poking one's head into the workings of the world."

John Daido Loori (1931 - 2009)
 The Art of Just Sitting

Monday, March 06, 2023

Cartesian Fallacy

"The universe is wider than our views of it."

Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

"Logic does not lead us from the fact that we are an integral part of the web of life to certain norms of how we should live. However, if we have the deep ecological experience of being part of the web of life, then we will (as opposed to should) be inclined to care for all of living nature. Indeed, we can scarcely refrain from responding in this way. 

By calling the emerging new vision of reality 'ecological' in the sense of deep ecology, we emphasize that life is at its very center. This is an important issue for science, because in the mechanistic paradigm physics has been the model and source of metaphors for all other sciences. 'All philosophy is like a tree,' wrote Descartes. 'The roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and the branches are all the other sciences.'

The systems view of life has overcome this Cartesian metaphor. Physics, together with chemistry, is essential to understand the behavior of the molecules in living cells, but it is not sufficient to describe their self-organizing patterns and processes. At the level of living systems, physics has thus lost its role as the science providing the most fundamental description of reality. This is still not generally recognized today. Scientists as well as nonscientists frequently retain the popular belief that 'if you really want to know the ultimate explanation, you have to ask a physicist,' which is clearly a Cartesian fallacy. The paradigm shift in science, at its deepest level, involves a perceptual shift from physics to the life sciences."

Fritjof Capra (1939 - ) and Pier Luigi Luisi (1938 - )
The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision

"Nature is an infinite sphere
whose center is everywhere and
whose circumference is nowhere."

Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662)

Sunday, March 05, 2023

The Mind of Some Eternal Spirit

"When scientists study the world of phenomena, the shadows which nature throws onto the wall of our cave, they do not find these shadows totally unintelligible, and neither do they seem to represent unknown or unfamiliar objects. Rather, it seems to me, we can recognize chess players outside in the sunshine who appear to be very well acquainted with the rules of the game as we have formulated them in our cave. To drop our metaphor, nature seems very conversant with the rules of pure mathematics as our mathematicians have formulated them in their studies, out of their own inner consciousness and without drawing to any appreciable extent on their experience of the outer world.
And now it emerges that the shadow-play which we describe as the fall of an apple to the ground, the ebb and flow of the tides, the motion of electrons in the atom, are produced by actors who seem very conversant with these purely mathematical concepts-with our rules of our game of chess, which we formulated long before we discovered that the shadows on the wall were also playing chess.
When we try to discover the nature of the reality behind the shadows, we are confronted with the fact that all discussion of the ultimate nature of things must necessarily be barren unless we have some extraneous standards against which to compare them. For this reason, to borrow Locke's phrase, "the real essence of substances" is forever unknowable. We can only progress by discussing the laws which govern the changes of substances, and so produce the phenomena of the external world. These we can compare with the abstract creations of our own minds.
It does not matter whether objects 'exist in my mind, or that of any other created spirit' or not; their objectivity arises from their subsisting 'in the mind of some Eternal Spirit.'"

- Sir James Jeans (1877 - 1946)
The Mysterious Universe

Saturday, March 04, 2023

The Celestial Way

"So it is said, the life of the sage follows the celestial way, and in death he dissolves and merges with all things. In stillness he is at one with the virtue of yin; in movement he flows with yang. He does not bring fortune and does not cause misfortune. He only responds when external circumstances call for it. He only acts when pushed. He only rises up when there is no other alternative. He throws away the whys and wherefores, and follows the celestial way. Therefore, he does not meet with disaster. Nor is he burdened by material things. He is not slandered by people nor punished by the spirits. He floats with life and rests with death. He does not worry and does not scheme. He is like light that does not dazzle. Completely trustworthy, he does not need to make promises. His sleep is dreamless and his waking hours are free from worry. His spirit is pure and his soul is not tired. In emptiness, nothingness, and simplicity, he is in harmony with the celestial way."

Chuang Tzu (c.369 B.C. - c.286 B.C.)
Translation in Teachings of the Tao by Eva Wong

Friday, March 03, 2023

I Am

"Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I'm flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.""

- Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)
Translation by Stephen Mitchell (The Enlightened Heart)

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Into Another Intensity

"Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning."

- T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965)