image by the nothing corporation
Science has all the elements of a good creation and destruction myth. It is awesome, and it does come with pictures. Still, for most people it does not spiritually satisfy. Even most scientists. Go to a hospital and you’ll see very few people clutching the Origin Of Species. Why? Why does science not comfort? I’d say it’s because the science we know does not accurately describe reality. What it accurately describes are illusions. The order of Newtonian physics is an illusion, a metaphor. It tells you enough to fly a plane but not an intergalactic spaceship. Einstein’s Relativity tells you more, but even that breaks down at higher and lower extremes. As such, popular science does not describe fundamental reality, which is impermanence and change.
I read that at higher levels of meditation you perceive change in motion. Not only that your thoughts are changing (I can perceive that in meditation) but that the cells in your body are changing, the wind, the air, the very constructs of perception. As Hesse said in his book Siddhartha
He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha, instead he saw other faces, many, a long sequence, a flowing river of faces, of hundreds, of thousands, which all came and disappeared, and yet all seemed to be there simultaneously, which all constantly changed and renewed themselves, and which were still all Siddhartha.
Science, of course, does grasp this idea of change. There is the observer’s paradox, whereby it’s acknowledged that perception can change atomic reality. There’s quantam physics, whereby it’s acknowledged that everything is mad. There’s Schroedinger’s cat, which is neither dead nor alive.
As Einstein said to the cat owner, “You are the only contemporary physicist, besides Laue, who sees that one cannot get around the assumption of reality, if only one is honest. Most of them simply do not see what sort of risky game they are playing with reality—reality as something independent of what is experimentally established.”
I don’t quite understand what that means, but it seems to support what I’m saying.
The popular idea of science is that everything is explained or can be explained and thus don’t worry. What this view misses, I think, is that the answer itself is worrying. It’s like saying ‘don’t worry, you’re going to die, your body will bloat and be eaten by worms, we know that.’ Well, fuck.
I think you can make a perfectly satisfying creation story with science, you can explain most important things to a child, but at some level you have to reach the realization that this world is impermanent and that this leads to suffering or, at the least, acute stress. Me, personally, I find a way to live with this through Buddhism and meditation. I know people who make their peace through faith or prayer or a structured way of living their life.
While their heuristics may be absurd on the level of dealing with experimental reality, they are still in touch with another reality which is independent of forms, which is independent of language, and which science is still only just poking at the edges of. We are not what we seem, things are not what they seem, and it kinda hurts being in the middle of this cosmic swirl and not fully understanding what’s going on. Science does not comfort in that sense, mainly because it does not directly acknowledge that this pain is real, which is all religion essentially does. It acknowledges suffering to which people are like, ‘fuck, yeah, I thought I was alone. That’s the feeling I walk around with every day and don’t really tell anybody.’ And then religion tells them to cut off the tip of their penis or something and things get weird from there. But they do have a point. Until they cut it off. But I digress.