The Curse of Science

I remember this one evening back in the day when I was living with a former girlfriend of mine. Her and I were sitting on the floor next to the fireplace watching the fire dance and play with the wood.  I, being very cerebral and analytical— even more so at the time—- introduced some heady commentary into the room after a long, sensuous, relaxed, crackle-sprinkled, silence:

” Man, don’t you wonder what’s going on down there at a molecular level, all the tiny masses of electrons, moving so chaotically and rapidly and generating intense micro-friction that bombards and barrages the particles of stagnant wood, ripping them apart and creating that bursting heat and light, a result of the transfer of internal energy by microscopic diffusion and collisions of particles or quasi-particles within a body due to a temperature gradient.

“Imagine! Those microscopically diffusing and colliding objects of molecules, electrons, atoms, and phonons! The way they transfer disorganized microscopic kinetic and potential energy, which are jointly known as internal energy. Conduction like this takes place within an object or material, or between two objects that are in direct or indirect contact with each other. What’s more is conduction takes place in all forms of ponderable matter, such as solids, liquids, gases and plasmas,” I pontificated.

Ha ok, that last part was Wikipedia, but the point is, I started going all science jargon on the fire.  

Ready and eager for a super fascinating, in-depth, kaleidoscoping conversation to follow my brilliant quandary and elucidation, eagerly waiting her reply, and hoping she was impressed by my GIANT….prefrontal cortex (oo la la)…I sat and waited.  

Silence.

Now, it was no secret between us that we more often than not communicated very differently. You see, we were kind of like a tiger and a dolphin that just happened to magically encounter along our respective animal soul journeys. Maybe I was playing dangerously close to shore in the high-tide waves and maybe she had wandered out of the jungle to chase some crabs, when fate brought our eyes to meet. However it happened, we became, to our own mystification, intrigued and pulled (read: ripped) by some cosmic force of fascination and attraction way bigger than logic. Tel est l’amour. It was quite a dance to say the least; I learned a lot about the wild pulse of the jungle and she got wet (no innuendo(s) intended).

Silence.

“You know?…Did you hear what I said?” I prodded.

“I heard what you said,” She said as short and tightly closed-up as a midget clam buried in the mud.

“Umm okk,” I said a little hurt, feeling as I so often had, like I was standing outside in the cold looking in on her, trying to enter and warm myself by the fire of intimacy. Tel est l’amour.

“Well do you have anything to respond, elaborate, question, contribute, retort, counter, interject, tangent, or reply with??….do you have any thoughts on the subject whatsoever?? Don’t you think it’s fascinating? I mean, how can you not?” I said.

She breathed in, as if she were doing me an utterly taxing favor to speak,

“Look, I just don’t always like to cut things apart, I like to feel them and be with them here and now, to take them in as a moving, rhythmic whole, as they are, without noisy man-made words covering them like flies and zapping out their mystique.”

I do not know, all these years later, if she really gave me such an explanatory answer or kept it short and frustrated, but in the fiction I write from the future, this is the meaning I now gather from her response to my analytical mode of seeing and being at the time. I was hurt regardless of her reasons and where she was–quite naturally–seeing the world from, but the moment stuck with me (obviously), and the difference between us that was illustrated to me by that memory-gouge taught me something and transformed me for the better. Tel est l’amour.

I am by no means now “anti-science”, but I came to realize that, like everything science is a blessing and a curse, a tool, and only one way/mode of navigating and playing with reality/infinity not an absolute. It has its place, as one type of language to organize the vast magic that is existence, allowing us to create and change things, and make them how we fancy them. It gives us control and shines lines of light of understand on the darkness and fear of the vast and unceasing unknown. It also, if used with the right eyes, can actually be one way of appreciating the wonder of things by seeing them more intimately. By using our words to label and then direct our attention to the tiny nuances and connections held inside of an otherwise flat surfaced object, we see depth and elegant complexity.

However, that girl, that magical, sensual, experiential girl, and her fiery contrast with my then watery-cold cerebral, predicting, analyzing, organizing, control-seeking self, showed me the curse side of science and more principally—the curse side of words. Words can be arrogant, they can claim to have something pinned, but nothing is ever pinned, everything is infinitely vast…and maybe this is what Beauty realizes, and why the eyes of beauty stay silent when watching a sunset.

Science is always outdoing itself.  It is a paradigm, a relationship, one relativity of infinite juxtapositions to infinity. Such is the same for religion, culture, society, government, economy, philosophy, arts, trades, people’s way of seeing the world, etc. There are infinite angles and how beautiful is that?!

Words can imprison us, if we fall asleep under their spell, and we can become victims to seeing the words only, clinging and preaching that they are absolute, scared of the infinity behind the words, the Poetry, and missing out on the beautiful dance with the Beloved Mystery, missing out on the adventure-filled journey we have been placed inside of, missing out on the expansion and evolution and intimacy with Mystery.

Fixation on words can be like idol worship: crude, finite, man-made objects we obsess over and call God that completely blind us to the vastness and wonder (and delight) that actually is God. I guess that is really what I am trying to say here; the “curse of science” can zap our wonder.

Do you remember ourselves as children, before words, enthralled with the bizarre miraculousness of simply being, moving about reality, curious about everything, delighted and fulfilled by the smallest of things?  Words can and do narrow our attention, they limit our angles, literally limiting what we see, and we as adults– unlike kids–stop finding so many creative games and perspectives to see the world by; we lose such liberty with our dimensions, because of the words we collect.  

We hide from and seek for this state of wordless, wonderful bliss behind words. Especially in the West, we have made logic and science our Absolute Gods, and like I have said, they have their place as tools and playthings,  but they are not beneficial when we become the extremist, science fanatics we sometimes live as. The result of such extremism is a sterile oversimplification, a loss of creativity, a listlessness and restlessness, and a then consequential drowning in distractions, and quick-fixes all because the mystery and magic has been zapped out of our worlds.

I tell you now, there is no edge of the world like these obsolete maps would have us believe and there is no end to us and our understanding and wonder. Just because we have a term, or phrase, or collection or canon of terms and phrases for some thing, does that not still leave that thing complete bizarre and unendingly miraculous and mysterious?  

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour."  William Blake

It’s like a relationship with someone; you might know their name and their favorite color and have a million words to describe their ‘identity’, but you can never pin them down, they are infinitely vast, they are “large, [they] contain multitudes” (Whitman, Song of Myself) and are always blossoming and evolving.

As humans we seek to subjugate Lady Mystery, because she is forever unknown and therefore dangerous and to be feared, so we try and pin her down with our words and identities and say, ‘we know what you will do and why you will do it and how you will do it and we can now control you.’ But we are left in a relationship with a robot, we become bored, unsatisfied, restless; the magic is zapped, we want back that feisty girl we once fell helplessly in love with. We as humans dance with the Mystery like this– like a lover–wanting to control her because we are afraid she will harm us, and yet sometimes learning how to let her flow free and enjoy the unending satisfaction of never knowing it all, but always boldly courting more.

All that being said, the sensual world is a world I have learned—like my girl so naturally knew—to appreciate more. Its nice to climb down from the ladder of the mind and feel good inside that body, delighted by the senses, present to the colors and gifts that we have been given to play with inside this grace of existence.  FEELS GOOD to FEEL.  Sorry if this blog was too wordy, it was only to free you from words, the irony is not lost on me, but C’est la vie.

 

 

 

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

 

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

-Walt Whitman, When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

 

“The more we try to live in the world of words, the more we feel isolated and alone, the more all the joy and liveliness of things is exchanged for mere certainty and security.”

Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety

 

“But you cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it, just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To “have” running water you must let go of it and let it run.”

Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

 

“Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.”

Alan W. Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

 

    What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously…Thoughts, ideas, and words are “coins” for real things. They are not those things, and though they represent them, there are many ways in which they do not correspond at all. As with money and wealth, so with thoughts and things: ideas and words are more or less fixed, whereas real things change.

 To define has come to mean almost the same thing as to understand.       

      More important still, words have enabled man to define himself–to label a certain part of his experience “I.” 

Where do “I” begin and end in space? “I” have relations to the sun and air which are just as vital parts of my existence as my heart.

 Now these are useful words, so long as we treat them as conventions and use them like the imaginary lines of latitude and longitude which are drawn upon maps, but are not actually found upon the face of the earth. But in practice we are all bewitched by words. We confuse them with the real world, and try to live in the real world as if it were the world of words. As a consequence, we are dismayed and dumbfounded when they do not fit.

          The more we try to live in the world of words, the more we feel isolated and alone, the more all the joy and liveliness of things is exchanged for mere certainty and security.

 The scope and purpose of science are woefully misunderstood when the universe which it describes is confused with the universe in which man lives…It is just this reality of the present, this moving, vital now which eludes all the definitions and descriptions. Here is the mysterious real world which words and ideas can never pin down.



       The miracles of technology cause us to live in a hectic, clockwork world that does violence to human biology, enabling us to do nothing but pursue the future faster and faster. Deliberate thought finds itself unable to control the upsurge of the beast in man–a beast more “beastly” than any creature of the wild, maddened and exasperated by the pursuit of illusions. Specialization in verbiage, classification, and mechanized thinking has put man out of touch with many of the marvelous powers of “instinct” which govern his body. It has, furthermore, made him feel utterly separate from the universe and his own “me.”



     If you ask me to show you God, I will point to the sun, or a tree, or a worm. But if you say, “You mean, then, that God is the sun, the tree, the worm, and all other things?”–I shall have to say that you have missed the point entirely.”

-Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

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