Seeing a Better World

 

 

Would you believe, how you see the world comes down to your understanding of physics?

         I cringed when I took physics class my senior year of high school.  It was a requirement for graduation and, as was my habit back then, I put off the difficult things until the end.  For me and a handful of my fellow seniors at Lejeune High School in 1987, that meant we took physics the Spring semester before graduation.  Our school was located aboard the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, about an hour’s drive north of Wilmington.  To my credit, I was one of the first people to class every day.

         That wasn’t because I was trying to get a leg up on my classmates.  My best friend in the class, Todd, was a junior and unlike me, he understood physics.  Still, we got to class early, turned on the Bunsen burners, and then lit little sponges of steel wool on fire before catapulting them across the room at one another.  Luckily, we never caught anything else on fire.  After 15 or 20 minutes, our classmates would come in, and the day would start.

         Todd was one of two people in our class who seemed to understand physics, something that was not lost on our teacher, Mr. Holt.

         He tried to teach us, and I’m sure it was when he saw the blank faces staring back at him that he relented, and we ended up playing charades in class.  Spring semester of my senior year still holds the record for the most charades I have played in my life.  What were my takeaways from class?

         When it came to physics, I knew the basics.  Newtonian physics was all about measuring things; the world was made of matter.  Atoms were the building blocks of existence.  Planets orbited the sun, we have gravity.  The speed of light is fast; the speed of sound is slower.  Everything was separate from everything else.  That was how I lived much of my life.  I saw physical separation in everything and everyone.

         Then, a funny thing happened.  I found yoga.

         After being in the Marines for fifteen years, I’m not sure I could have told you what a yoga studio was; I’m sure I walked by one at some point.  They just weren’t on my radar.  After reading a Sports Illustrated article about NFL players using yoga to strengthen their midsections, that was good enough for me; if manly NFL players could do yoga, so could a Marine Corps veteran.  After my second class, I was hooked.  Less than a year later, I became an instructor.

         Admittedly, after spending fifteen years around actual “heavy metal” (tanks, artillery, jets & helicopters), the yoga community was a fascinating new world.  The Marine Corps was a physically demanding life.  Metal was hard.  Tanks were enormous with thick armor, and weight 62 tons.

Yoga felt light.  In yoga, women referred to themselves as “goddesses.”  Men spoke with a calm confidence.

         I went to weekend retreats to deepen my yoga practice.  The first few times I heard a teacher say, “you are not your mind, you are not your body.  You are the awareness behind those things” I’ll admit I was baffled.

 

         Like many people, I grew up with the idea that my mind and body were two separate things.  The idea that they were connected in some way was a foreign concept.  Recently I wondered…where did that idea of separation come from?  It turns out, we don’t have to go too far back in history to understand where this separation started.

The first person responsible for driving this separation between the mind and body was the French philosopher Descartes.  You might remember his famous quote, “I think, therefore I am.”  Descartes was born at the end of the 16th century, and brought together the fields of geometry and algebra, giving us analytical geometry.  He said that the Catholic church needed to separate everything that was “definitely true” from everything that wasn’t.  Eventually, Descartes decided that both science and religion held a lot of truths, but in different ways.  This leads us to Sir Isaac Newton.

Newton came onto the scene midway through the 17th century; he believed that science had nothing to say about the dogmatic content of religion.  This isn’t to say that Newton didn’t believe in God; on the contrary, he saw a monotheistic God as the masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation.  Newton gave us Newtonian physics, a brilliant framework for understanding the dynamics of the physical world.

Descartes’ conviction and Newton’s belief that Science should not infringe on the strict tenets of Christianity led to a separation of science and religion.  Science was focused on the material world and physical matter.  Religion was the intangible, the mind.

This led to the understanding that, like science and religion, the mind and body were to be treated separately, and not as two parts making a whole.

Luckily, Einstein and Neil Bohr came along.

Einstein believed there must be a relationship between energy and matter.  He gave us E=mc.  Quantum physics was discovered.

Being raised as a Christian, I believed I had a soul.  The problem with the Christianity I grew up with was, it didn’t tell you how to access, or awaken that soul.  Yoga did.

 

Yoga talked about the chakras, energy centers within the body, seven in all.  Each chakra served a different purpose in the body, and there were classes on how to clear or align the chakras.  That idea…that there was an internal world that I could tune…led me to quantum physics.

Quantum physics threw a curveball at Newtonian physics.  Whereas Newtonian physics said everything was separate, quantum physics said everything was connected.  As the brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla once observed, “All matter is energy vibrating at a certain frequency.”  Things vibrated at different frequencies.  For us, our consciousness is the frequency.

Quantum physics said things existed as both particles and waves.  This discovery was made when scientists did experiments with light.  If the observer was looking to see a particle, light showed up as a particle.  If they were looking to see light as a wavelength, light showed up as a wave.  It was a paradox, but one that worked.

Quantum physics went below the atomic level.  More than that, it demonstrated that, contrary to the Newtonian model of the world, where everything was solid matter, atoms were made of 99.99999% empty space and just .00001 matter.  Every atom in existence…mostly empty space.

The more I immersed myself in seeking to understand the implications of quantum physics, and the idea that everything and everyone is connected, the more it made sense.  One of the spiritual foundations of yoga, like Buddhism and some of the more esoteric traditions, is the idea of “oneness.”  Quantum physics, and adopting a quantum view of the world, is the ability to see that oneness in everything and everyone.

For me, this shift happened dramatically over the past four years.  Prior to the pandemic, I was still viewing the world in a traditional Newtonian model of reality; I saw differences in people based on their cultural backgrounds, their beliefs, even their ethnicities.  That isn’t to say I judged people; I saw people as different.  Over the pandemic, things began to shift.

Certainly, part of that was the great equalizer that was COVID.  During 2020 and 2021, nearly everyone was working from home; it didn’t matter if you were the CEO of a company or an intern straight out of college; we had a chance to see into everyone’s home and everyone’s lives.

As I went deeper in my own inner journey, I began to appreciate the universal nature of being human, while recognizing the incredible diversity and uniqueness of the individual human experience.  In the past four years, how I see the world has, quite literally, changed.  It’s like viewing your life through the highest definition television screen.

Quantum physics is undeniable yet, without at least a rudimentary understanding of it, you cannot help but see the world through the conventional Newtonian model of reality, where everything and everyone is separate.

Thankfully, as quantum physics has gone more mainstream, it’s more present now in Hollywood, in movies and streaming shows.  The internet, with the fantastic amounts of information that are flowing into our wireless devices has also contributed to making quantum physics more accessible.

If all atoms in your body are 99.9999% empty space, what is consciousness?  Hmmm.  Something to think about.

How do you see the world?  Are you still living in a world of separation, or do you see the possibility of a better world, by accepting the interconnectedness of everything?  If you’re new to the world of quantum physics, a great book to start with is, Quantum Physics for Beginners, by Carl. Pratt.