April 24, 2011

are you experienced?

Twenty-two years later, I open up The Dancing Wu Li Masters and find an E.E. Cummings quotation?!? Synchronicity just so is, I tell you. “Knowledge is a polite word / for dead but not buried imagination.” Ouch, as I sit here neck-deep in supposedly knowledgeable books. But, thank you, Universe. I needed that.

I have been so hung up on explicating the spiritual dimensions of modern science so knowledgeably. Yet, the biggest point of the most philosophical physicists is that we ultimately cannot know anything in any traditional way of thinking, but must instead open ourselves to understanding everything experientially. Mysticism is the new intellectualism.

It’s been proven, actually. By Bell’s theorem. Just another mind-bending reality brought to you by the last fifty years of hard-core scientific research. “Physicists have ‘proved,’ rationally, that our rational ideas about the world in which we live are profoundly deficient.” Gary Zukav backs up this claim with serious exegesis of everything from redshift experimentation to wave/particle duality, but the bottom line is that “Bell’s theorem not only suggests that the world is quite different than it seems, it demands it.”

Things like intuition and synchronicity turn out to be an inherent physical aspect of life itself, not merely a spiritual aspect off on the transcendent edges of it. Buddhists would say we don’t see these otherwise “magical” aspects of life because of “delusion,” which essentially means that we initially only see the world as we think it is, not as it truly and ultimately is. Buddhism’s core teaching is that we have a very real ability to “see through” this veil of delusion and apprehend the ultimate nature of reality… and get truly peaceful in the process. That would be our inherent, and cultivatable, Buddha Nature. I am such a sucker for a fundamentally optimistic faith that turns out to be highly rational as well.

20th century physicists are now basically saying the same thing, but of course they say it in a much more complex and analytical way. What they have seen, quite literally, is that there is an experiential difference between what actually happens in the universe and what happens when we speak about it. Can you imagine the looks on their faces as these men observe phenomena actually changing because of the measurements and categories and definitions they put on them? That their words actually affect subatomic behavior, as well as our comprehension of it? And can you imagine a better reason for us all to lighten up on the words and measurements and categories and the definitions sometimes and just let things be?

“[S]ymbols do not follow the same rules as experience. They follow rules of their own. In short, the problem is not in the language, the problem is the language.” Really. It’s scientifically proven. The theological implications boggle the mind almost as much as the concept itself. And, years later, I barely have my mind around these truths, much less their implications. However, one small life insight has helped me to better intuit this reality.

When my daughters were young, personal video cameras were the newest thing (and about the size and weight of two encyclopedias strapped together). As young parents, we were all over filming this smile, that step, this morning at the pre-school, that afternoon out in the backyard. But, I clearly recall being hit by the feeling one day, hit like an angel came with a trumpet and blared it into my bones, that having that camera between us and the experience in front of us fundamentally changed the entire experience. Not changed my perception or experience of it. Changed what actually happened, on every level. And, I deeply felt—and still can—the experience of certain unmediated, unrecorded, un-made-into-a-future-treasure moments in a way that I cannot feel from watching those films, even though I enjoy the experience of them as well. Watching them is just a very different experience. We don’t have any footage past 2004.

I don’t know if brilliant physicists would appreciate this parallel, but I bet any parent who reads this completely gets it. I also think that Mr. Zukav’s choice of words from E. E. Cummings beautifully illustrates the intuitive truth that knowledge and its concomitant words and measurements and definitions and categories are basically what we do to imagination—to experience—and, in so doing, we alter them. That’s why we need to know what we cannot ultimately know and allow ourselves to experience that in a different way.

Twenty-two years and all of these books later, and my twelve year old intuitively imagines it, and gets it, better than The Dancing Wu Li Masters?!? Last week, Kyrie asked me what was Kabbalah, and in an effort to calibrate the optimal length of my little lecture, I asked her if she knew what mystical meant.

“It’s when things are translucent.”

I, teaching more than listening, immediately tried to correct her in the manipulative form of a ‘polite’ question.

“Do you mean ‘transcendent’?”

“No, I mean it’s what you can see into but you can’t tell exactly what it is. You perceive it and you understand it, but you can’t describe it exactly.”

Imagine that.

Categories: E.E. Cummings, Poetry, The Dancing Wu Li Masters

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