Mysteries still abound, and so too do metaphors for mysteries. The possibilities are endless!
A good metaphor for the cosmos.
First a bit of practical business to share, then on to the missing clothes metaphor. I did not mention in my last post – it was still stinging a bit – but I have been asked to not return to the Chenpo Terma for the time being. So I won’t, or rather, can’t. I know its location on a map and have been there, but traveling to the Himalayan plateau is not a trivial matter to be attempted alone and the locals will have been warned not to help me.
I have asked Chonyi to appeal again to the Sangha-dhatu council of elders to change their minds, but I know the difficulties I face gaining their trust again. The earthquake, and my tendency to push them to go public, have led to understandable resentment, trepidation, and the like.
Add to that the fact that the relic was in my possession when it was confiscated and me being a fugitive from the international relic police (yes Interpol)… neither has bought me points with the council.
What the relic police would do if they caught me remains a bit of a mystery, but I do not want to find out. That is what the bad guys are betting on too. Plus they know I would not keep my mouth shut about my suspicions, which would probably get me charged with slander (and what I’m writing here, if I weren’t using pseudonyms, would be called libel). Whatever to build some kind of case against me. How far Bernie Ghes would go to keep the relic from me (and any positive attention from the relic or my brother) is hard to imagine, but he is not one to do dirty-work himself. The real question is, How far would do-gooders and career criminals hired by a self-important academician go to keep the relic out of my hands?
So why do I care if I ever hold or view these terma again? Why not move on? Obviously they have cultural value, but UNESCO should be able to advocate for that if provided enough information.
So here’s the thing. I have experienced first hand the power of these terma. Not raw physical power like a sword, but gnostic power. Under their influence I saw with a clarity rarely achieved, even when I find myself by the remotest stream on the clearest day. Such assertions cannot be quantified, much less believed, given modern fascination with all things testable. I realize I may just be being sentimental too because I had insightful moments with them in mind (something my brother never seemed willing to admit about his own experiences with the relic). I do not know for sure which interpretation is accurate, but I know I want to have the chance to find out what my experience means. And others should have the chance to experience it.
One such insightful moment happened as follows. The day after a friend and I literally cracked open the relic to reveal its three puzzle-like layers, I sat turning it over again and again in my hands, linking and unlinking the pieces in their various combinations. What I saw was this: when a holistic truth or unified physical reality is manifest through three interconnected continua, meta-theories tend to form around subsets of two continua with the third being neutralized, or made a null set, in order to analyze the other two in relation to each other. At the time I was thinking specifically of physics theories, but the wider relevance is also apparent to me.
So by way of example, let’s take Newtonian physics, special relativity, and quantum mechanics – three physics meta-theories. Assume three continua are at work, let’s call them MODE, VEHICLE, and PARTICLE, and ascribe one continua as missing from each meta-theory’s symbolism. For the sake of (a non-coincidental) argument, say Newtonian physics is missing MODE, special relativity is missing VEHICLE, and quantum mechanics is missing PARTICLE. If we make a single diagram in which each of the three continua are represented not only by an interrelated symbol but by color coding, then vary the background color so that it corresponds for a time to each continuum’s color, you get an animation like the one above. A visual representation of how the same underlying reality looks different but connects back to the whole if we define the continua as interrelated (one symbol) but distinct (variable color). I chose the carvings on the relic to create my representation.
Overlapping meta-theories is a non-controversial observation. When interpreted this way it can be seen as evidence that interrelated and likely hidden continua are at work behind reality (and I don’t mean hidden dimensions! you don’t want to get me started on that!). Important conceptual hurdle to get over, but just the beginning of what would end up being an intellectual obstacle course. Clearly, the correct complement of continua have to be identified and defined in an interrelated way. Not a small task given that each continua falls into the hidden/missing/background role naturally when relying on known types of analysis.
It should not be surprising at all that modern science cannot get its meta-theories to mesh together. Each is based on an assumption where one essential continuum is demoted to the role of backdrop. Symbolic languages are adopted for the resulting meta-theories and, most importantly, links to the temporarily nullified continua are lost.
Each meta-theory is like a stage production, with its own characters, story and backdrop. That is the science we have come to know and love, and now, after the fact, we expect to be able to build holistic models of it? Call it the Ghost of Reductionism, or Human Longing for Predictability, or the commercial value of Paradigms-R-Us. Consumers and the majority of professionals in science and culture long ago severed their ties with reality and associated holistic truths when they accepted the model of interpreting the scenes and stories played out in each human field of investigation as more than what they are: non-real parallel universes of thought.
We are a society of clothes-less emperors. All missing the clothes of reality, with no one to challenge us. I am here to advocate for the advantages to donning colorful, real accouterments once again.
Since there is stripping going on, try to relish the thought of taking away the backdrops and removing the symbolic languages from existing theories, if just for a moment. What we are left with is not only the potential connectedness of meta-theories but, with all these hidden continua to uncover, a likely critical role for nothingness itself. Maybe we are getting somewhere after all.
Yesterday I heard an interview with writer and yoga teacher Matthew Sanford on NPR’s Speaking of Faith. Amazing, gifted person whose body was disabled after a car accident at the age of 13. Check out the following, which is an excerpt he read from his recent memoir Waking:
Imagine walking from a well-lit room into a dark one. Imagine the darkness as a visual expression of silence. My rehabilitation made a mistake with the silence by focusing on the absence of light. It too quickly accepted the loss and taught me to willfully strike out against the darkness. It told me to move faster rather than slower, push harder rather than softer. It guided me to compensate for what I could not see.
Another course of action, however, is patience. Stop moving, wait for the eyes to adjust, allow for stillness and then see what’s possible. Although full-fledged vision does not return, usually there is enough light to find one’s way across the room. After a while, the moon may come out, sounds might gain texture, the world might reveal itself once again, only darker.
The darkness of certain physical views like quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle is dramatic. Its experts have all had metaphysical rehab! Media, art and literature accept their rehabilitated opinions, which morph into cultural messages full of positive spins – and, to certain ears, irony. Quantum leap over your limitations… uncertainty makes the universe exciting, or… in an alternate universe you may be experiencing bliss! After my brother parted ways with the physics community he regularly lamented this.
I would take it one step further now. Should theorists lose track of one basic principle – that physical theories must connect to physical reality – what would keep the problem from spiraling into a new type of darkness, one of human making?
[I am aware I keep mixing two notions of darkness / nothingness that are quite distinct. See my Philosophy Disclaimer.]
Matthew Sanford says something similar happens to the disabled all the time. They accept their fate as being cut off from their physical bodies rather than of needing to become more finely attuned to it and accepting of its subtleties. First and foremost being as whole as possible should be more important that being “a fighter,” or in the case of physicists avoiding metaphysical crises, of being a pedant? (That was John’s favorite insult to hurl at career physicists.)
Matthew Sanford, in reconnecting his mind and emotions with his disabled body, says he identified a common source of physical limitation in the world. Without knowing it even able-bodied people disable themselves in small ways over a lifetime through closing down physical communication with the parts of themselves that hurt. People’s focus is too often on accepting immediate relief through physical silence (a darkness of human making?). He says instead we should focus on being patient with our existing capacity, however limited, and re-connecting with the energy and physical processes that built us in the first place.
Maybe I should rename this weblog Metaphysical Yoga.
My posts so far have been about recent events, how they affected me, and why I decided to weblog. The question remains, Why should anyone care?
A good place to start is with the title of the weblog. You might be asking,what’s with “Hidden: The paradox of revealing nothingness” aside from, perhaps, a clever word play? Maybe you get that I am in hiding, something about stealing relics and bad guy physicists, but are not clear if I am revealing nothingness or caught in a paradox where nothingness is the unfortunate consequence. If it’s the first, then you may be unsure how you are supposed to tell when there is a revelation vs. nothingness vs. a revelation about nothingness.
Before we switch on the lights in a panic, I hope you will take a deep breath with me and consider that the dark is nothing to be afraid of. At least not here. You may wish I would turn on the lights and just give you a friendly tour. You may be increasingly uncomfortable, imagining zombies, or hoards of bugs, or death each time I remind you that the lights are out. But turning on the lights would mean deferring to our dominant sense, to “see” a problem that, while not imaginary, can only be solved by evoking our other senses. No matter how many times someone tells you there are no such things as zombies, until you sit in the dark, awake, aware, and alone, and prove it to yourself, you will not be able to answer the more interesting question, Does nothingness have something to reveal?
When it comes to pondering nothingness (metaphorically = darkness), I would equate “using all of your senses” to letting our collective blend of scientific wisdom (wonder), faith and philosophy mingle instead of reflexively evoking a media sound byte understanding of valid debates and concepts.
I have reason to believe that these things – wonder, faith and metaphysical philosophy can be brought together only in darkness. Not darkness in the sense of uncertainty and fear though. Darkness in the sense of potential, of a coherence that, if it exists, is not separate, to be observed, but must be conceived. The place it exists is in the paradox of revealing nothingness.
We are hardly the first to bravely go where I am suggesting I will go. Any of you familiar with lay theologian C.S. Lewis’s “Wood Between the Worlds,” central to his Chronicles of Narnia prequel The Magician’s Nephew, can consider this endeavor a scientific and philosophical application of that spiritual vision. Far, far fewer of you may be familiar yet with the radical doctrine of a 14th century Buddhist monk Dolpopa. It energized, and divided, Tibet’s spiritual development for three centuries. Then in the 17th century, political agendas that eventually led to the re-stabilization of Tibet and its establishment as a theocracy, squashed the rich diversity of doctrines such as Dolpopa’s that had flourished. A potent doctrinal vacuum resulted. I would compare it to the reality crisis sparked this century by the indoctrination of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. Not just nothingness but emptiness, nothingness devoid of the possibility of meaning and ruled by uncertainty.
This 5 minute YouTube video “What is theoretical physics for?” is fascinating in relation to what I’m doing here. Youth plus the perceived nothingness that surrounds us, in relation to physics theory, metaphysics and beyond. Check out the funky lighting… he’s barely illuminated in the darkness. Very humble. I like that.
I know I said media perspective is bad, but I meant mainstream media…