Thursday, September 1, 2005

The Web of Life

I have decided I am destined to stumble through life with a perpetual look of ignorance plastered across my ruddy mug. I say this because I have begun to notice my family and friends constantly pushing educational and self-improvement opportunities my way. For example, I often find copies of Discover and Popular Science magazines stacked neatly in the bathroom my fifteen year old son and I share. I know they are not for Spenser, because, according to him, he is up to date on every imaginable subject. The accompanying high powered reading glasses resting neatly on top of the stack are yet another clear indication the magazines are directed at me. Taking the not so subtle hint, I recently picked up a Discover periodical and began to read an article by Michio Kaku, entitled Testing String Theory.

The Dalai Lama

The article began, "One of the most remarkable claims made in modern times comes from string theory, which holds that everything in the universe is composed of tiny vibrating strings of energy. The strings in string theory are tiny---about a billionth of a billionth the size of a proton. In this view, every particle in your body, every speck of light that lets you read these words, and every packet of gravity that pushes you into your chair is just a variant of this one fundamental entity. Advocates say vibrating strings underlie every particle and every force in the universe. String theory may achieve what Einstein could not, a unified theory that explains how the universe works. But will anyone ever be able to prove this theory? The concept that everything is made of tiny vibrating strings stretches human imagination to the breaking point."

"The math behind string theory is extremely sophisticated and beautiful, and the equations have survived every mathematical challenge. People who have worked on string theory often walk away with a powerful, yet unquantifiable, feeling that it must be true. In an attempt to prove the principles through variations in gravity, scientists are going to attempt a particle accelerator test. The Large Hadron Collider, which is located outside Geneva, Switzerland and is the world's most powerful particle accelerator, is to be put to use. The super collider may be powerful enough to test one of the most bizarre predictions of strung theory; that there are many physical dimensions. Recent versions of string theory hypothesize that there are actually seven spatial dimensions beyond the three we can sense." The article on string theory ends by suggesting, "The remarkable proof of the theory might not cost years of effort and billions of dollars. It might come instead from the most basic tools of science; paper, pencil and a human brain."

The brain I rely on, which I believe to be human in origin, was hurting horribly after my third re-read of the article. I think it was Michael Covey who said that if you read and/or listen to a story three times it will soak in to even the densest gray matter. I have faith in this principle, but, as it relates to me, have not proven it to be totally true. When I arrived at work the next morning, I found a note from two psychologist friends, Jon and Dawn. Jon and Dawn are thoughtfully intelligent people, who have provided me a great deal of positive insight through the years. They too seem to be concerned with my educational and self-improvement opportunities, or lack thereof, and recommended an audio book by the Dalai Lama. I promptly purchased the suggested material and began to listen. The Dalai Lama's essays contained remarkable insight into the connecting web of life, which this wonderful individual calls "Dependent Origination".

In a nutshell, "Dependent Origination refers to the nature of reality and the close connection between how we perceive ourselves in relation to the world we inhabit and our behavior in response to it. In the course of our daily lives, we engage in countless disparate activities and receive huge amounts of sensory input from all we encounter. How we interpret and react to that input effects everyone and everything around us, in one way or another. In beginning to understand phenomenon and reality, we become aware of the infinite complexity of our relationships to all things." Cool!!!!

There are three levels to understanding this model: "1. All things and events arise on a complex web of interrelated causes and conditions. From this we can see that no thing or event can be construed to exist in and of itself; 2. Understanding the mutual dependence which exists between individual parts and the whole, without the whole the concept of parts makes no sense; and 3. All things and events can be understood to be dependently originated, because when we analyze them we find that ultimately they lack independent identity."

Spider Web

I began to see parallels all over the place. String Theory and Dependent Origination were sounding very similar. There is at least one other facet to this story that must be considered, that of Spider Woman in Navajo mythology. Spider Woman's spiritual power, as seen in her silken web, joins the realms of Earth and Sky. As a deity, she is given credit for weaving and placing human arteries, and is thus at least partially responsible for human beings. Spider Woman is the central figure that relates to supernatural power in the quest of the Hero Twins to search out and build a relationship with their father, the all powerful Sun. This relationship provides security of life and sacred protection for the Navajo people. Spider Woman's interwoven web connects all things to a rich and diverse culture on multiple levels.

It sounds to me like String Theory, Dependent Origin and Spider Woman are all part of the same fabric of life. As human beings, we are all connected, and, on another plane or dimension, we are dependent on the natural world for survival. I do not know what anyone else will think, but, to me, that does not sound so far-fetched. There are times I go away from these studies feeling that I have made a profound personal discovery and gained insight into the web of life that maintains our mental and physical well being.

As I recall, in a recent movie, Spider Man, remembering his deceased uncle's words of wisdom, "with great knowledge comes great responsibility and sacrifice", as he turned and walked away from a rejected and confused Mary Jane...what the heck should I do now?

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2005 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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