The Quantum Album: 1. Layers

In the near future, a series of posts will be titled similarly to this one. This is to indicate that they are intended as part of a “series” all inspired by reading I’ve done and meditation I have done on the subject of quantum physics. Consider this Track 1 from The Quantum Album.

Sometimes I sit back and watch the wind sweep by and I realize that with every gust, the earth in front of me is being altered if only on a most undetectable scale. Or I watch the rain come pouring down, and notice how the mud is flowing out of the grass into the street. And again I know the world is not the same as it was. The same plot of land is ever changing.

Or I notice how with every round of training groups we recruit at my office, by the end of the project most of them are gone but some of them stay on and become a long-term member of the team, while over time others leave. Employees retire or pass away, and others take their seats, or move away from their usual seat because of a technical issue at their station, and they decide they like it at the new place so that becomes their seat. Old pictures come off the walls and are replaced by new ones. While that is going on, the walls are repainted. Sometimes the office just gets a new vending machine, or various options in the old vending machine are updated. The company goes by the same name but it is ever changing

Or I notice that in the decade my wife and I have been in this town, the population has risen from about 95,000 to 107,000 and is expected to double in the next generation due to medical facilities being developed at this very moment. Along with these facilities is a string of senior living apartments, general population apartments, grocery stores, convenience stores, and all manner of other signs of a burgeoning civilization popping up like pimples on a teenager. Old buildings are coming down and new ones are coming up, or new businesses are replacing old ones in the same old building. The reach of the city limits is expanding but the face of that which has always been this city is evolving every day it seems. It goes by the same name but it is ever changing.

In every case layers of history are being added all of the time. Impermanence is everywhere. The dance of Shiva is played out in every moment.

And then I think about an amazing fact that I learned a while back – that over a certain period of time every cell in a person’s body dies and is replaced so that from one point in time to another your body is made up of an entirely new set of cells. And yet you are the same person.

Quantum physics is a subject I have become very interested in over the years. I don’t know how any Hindu could not be. There is a theory in quantum physics called the Holographic Principle which I am sure I have written about in passing at some point. The theory goes, in short, that the observable universe is not necessarily (but maybe) an illusion, but a hologram. Just as how in a hologram multiple to myriad bits of information are held within a small space, the holographic principle of quantum physics seems to be saying that the cause and the effect, the past and the future are all held within the moment. I find that in observing the changing physical and societal world around me in these ways, I am able to contemplate timelessness and changelessness.

Aham Brahmasmi

Tat Tvamasi

Aum.

 

 

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A Short Rant on Vegetarianism

veg·e·tar·i·an
ˌvejəˈterēən/
noun
noun: vegetarian; plural noun: vegetarians
  1. 1.
    a person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons.
meat
mēt/
noun
noun: meat; plural noun: meats
  1. 1.
    the flesh of an animal as food.
an·i·mal
ˈanəməl/
noun
noun: animal; plural noun: animals
  1. 1.
    a living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli.
fish
fiSH/
noun
noun: fish; plural noun: fish; plural noun: fishes
  1. 1.
    a limbless cold-blooded vertebrate animal with gills and fins and living wholly in water.

Bearing the preceding string of definitions in mind, can anyone explain to me why people continue to ask vegetarians why we don’t eat fish? Yeah, I get it, “fish is seafood” but they are animals.  I have actually had to explain to some folks that the whole purpose of being a vegetarian is to not eat animals. I am not writing this post to put vegetarians on a pedestal or to denounce meat-eating in any way. I just never cease to be baffled as to the source of the cognitive dissonance about vegetarians eating fish.

 

Aham Brahmasmi
Tat Tvamasi Aum.

 

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Indian Style

When I was in kindergarten, one of the things I remember most clearly aside from the Reading Rocket (a big plastic silo-like structure, black with silver stars on it) was that whenever we were to sit down and listen to the teacher teach, whenever we were to really sit and really listen, we were asked to sit “Indian style”.

For many years before I knew anything about meditation or Hinduism or India or anything related to it, I assumed that this referred to those often called Native Americans. It was actually not in any way different from the lotus position.

So looking back, it makes me think that as un-PC as it could be seen for teachers to ask us to “sit Indian style” they were actually quite forward-thinking. As forward-thinking as one can be by making use of milleniums-old wisdom. Somewhere along the line I guess they’d learned that sitting in the lotus position was the best way to open up perceptions, improve focus and and for the gods’ sakes get a bunch of five-year-olds to settle down and shut up for a minute and a half. In any case it was a good foundation for all future learning.

Jai Hari Aum.

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What a Mad Delusion

I read about a study once – I wish I could find out where – in which a group of people were shown a painting of a scene from Vienna and played a recording of a singer with acoustic guitar, singing a song called “Look At Your Game, Girl” without being told the names of the painter or the singer.

The reviews of both were generally kind or even favorable.

Then another group was shown the same painting and played the same song after being told the names of the artists. This group was not as favorable toward either work.

The painter was pre-Third Reich Adolf Hitler.

The singer was pre-Tate/LaBianca Charles Manson.

I don’t have much of a point to make here. This is just a demonstration of how our attitudes can be formed on whether or not we find something pleasing, and our skewed way of qualifying beauty. I think this is the point that Axl Rose was trying to make when he insisted on covering the Manson song on one of Guns n Roses’ albums.

On a side note, and speaking of girls and games, I once played the tune (the Manson original demo) for my wife and I asked her to guess who the singer was. I had her turn away from our computer because I could not find a version of it on YouTube that did not give it away. I allowed her to ask me yes/no questions as to the artist’s identity, and after just eleven guesses, she came to Charles Manson.  I was prepared for the game to go on all day.

On another side note, there is a lot in the song about delusion and ego. I like it really. The paintings I could do without.

Jai Hari Aum

 

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Vs. III – Reincarnation vs. Rebirth

This one does not hold as much immediate import on a day-to-day basis as the last two posts do as far as I am concerned. Because (1) it has to do with transmigration, a subject that, to most, cannot be proven, and (2) even if it could, we don’t control what our next life is to be anyroad. Well, I would argue that we do in fact have a great deal of control over that, though so much of that ability is slipping through our fingers day by day with every single decision we make that we don’t often take the time to realize that we are shaping our eternal future right now.

But this post is just about two words. Reincarnation and Rebirth. I just finished a neat little book called “Buddhism for Dudes” in which the difference was described fairly clearly. As an aside, the book is hardly just for dudes, as the intro tries to claim. There is nothing in it that woman can not find applicable. Just a few anecdotes are more dudecentric, but that is natural, having been written by one. But it also subtitled “A Jarhead’s Field Guide to Mindfulness” when there is really only one major anecdote about mindfulness at war.

The way the book explains reincarnation and rebirth is roughly like this: Reincarnation is like General George S. Patton’s claim that he had and would continue to return as generals in all of the world’s great conflicts.

This assumes there was something essential to his everlasting transmigrating soul that gravitated toward armed conflict. It’s a little like when a baseball fan says someone is “Lou Gehrig incarnate” or a rock n roll fan says someone is “Jimi Hendrix incarnate.” These are a little more specific incarnates than a warrior coming back as a warrior, but you get the idea. An incarnate, it seems, is more of an archetype, rather than an individual jivan, developing and evolving through transmigration.

Rebirth is described as a result of ignorance of our true nature. Our true Self. Rebirth seems to be more the word we are looking for in the Hindu context. Surely our dominating traits in this life determine the next step we take toward moksha, in the next life. Though “reincarnation” as defined above borders on the description of an avatar, assigning attributes like “warrior” to one’s ever-lasting transmigrating soul is just the type of ignorance and ego-attachment really, that results in “rebirth” as defined above.

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Vs. II – Content vs. Satisfied

Contentment and satisfaction are two more states of mind that often get confused, and unfortunately often at great risk of inner peace. Like in the last post I am not going to go by any dictionary definition, but by my own perceptions of the terms.

Satisfaction is a fulfillment of the countless ebbs and flows of coming and going desires. It is reacting (see last post) to the needs of the moment. Totally impermanent. Desire relies on being repeatedly satisfied so that they can repeatedly come back. And its that repetition that carves out the deep pathways in our consciousness which makes it so much easier to continue the repeated action.

Contentment has nothing to do with fulfillment of desires. Contentment is a feeling that one might maintain regardless of a desire’s fulfillment and regardless of their coming and going. It is inner equanimity in an unstable outer world.

In other words, Maya feeds on satisfaction, not just the lack thereof . Moksha is almost defined by contentment.

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Vs. I – Response vs. Reaction

Yesterday was a very dark day for the world. On 9/11/01, a few thousand people died in New York and on two other locations where terrorists used planes as weapons. Yesterday 129 died in Paris. Surely the number of people personally affected by 9/11 was more than Paris. And surely the various attacks that have been undertaken in the name of an ideal add up to make Paris look like a tea party. You cannot quantify tragedy. Just that it happened, that (1) there are people whose ideologies are so deeply ingrained in their psyches that they’d commit such acts, (2) that there are things going on in the world that the killers themselves see as so horrific that they consider their own subsequent acts as justifiable, and (3) that there are governments that are determined to continue the status quo no matter what the cost in the wake of these events, which pretty much puts the world in a continual spiral toward total obliteration…well…it kind of makes a blogger lose his train of thought.

This refusal to let go of one’s ideologies, when it refers to religion (the root cause of so much strife in the world) is referred to as religiaholism. Addiction to one’s belief systems and the inability to let them go regardless of evidence presented to the contrary, regardless of the outcome of such stubbornness. Also known as fundamentalism. But it is not always restricted to religion. An ideology is an ideology. They are tattooed in the collective consciousness of humanity, often to negative and unsettling ends, as we’ve seen this weekend.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about words. This seems like a reasonable place to begin a series of posts on words with subtle but important differences. This one is Response vs. Reaction. This is one of the most indelible lessons I learned with interactions with a Hindu practitioner of the Samkhya philosophy who I met at my temple in 2010. There are various ways you could define both response and reaction. To me, reaction is of the emotions, and response is of the intellect. Response is objective to various facets of the situation. Reaction often comes along with a pre-decided assessment of the situation.

Which one sounds more healthy? Which one sounds like it will provide the world with the more productive outcome to the Paris situation? Which one do you think we will get from those whose decisions will ultimately color the outcome?

As a universal household, our reaction/response to what happened in Paris has potential to be just as fundamentalist, just as religiaholic as the acts we are reacting/responding to.  In fact we’ve seen it happen over and over and over again. Or our actions can come from a place of intellect. But one thing we can’t forget is that emotion isn’t purely heart-driven and intellect isn’t just the brain. After we’ve used our intellect to help determine the best course of action, our actions can be guided by the heart. Because this may be yet world-wide situation where no course of action is possible whereby no damage will be done. But guided by the heart, it can be minimized.

Auṃ pūrṇamadaḥ pūrṇamidam pūrṇāt pūrṇamudacyate
pūrṇasya pūrṇamādāya pūrṇamevāvaśiṣyate
oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ!
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