Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Name Is Nora and I Know Nothing

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." Albert Einstein

Recently, Mitchell's bossman, Cody, hosted a quote contest on his blog. It was a good time, seeing all the participants present their favorite quotes and explain why they chose them. As I searched for good quotes, I came across some beauties from one of my all time favorite thinkers, Albert Einstein. When I was first introduced to quantum theory, I realized it was going to take a minor miracle to get my brain wrapped around the fundamentals, but that's never stopped me from trying. And once I became familiar with some of Einstein's thoughts about the world, I began to see that he viewed "absolute truths" of science with flexibility and humor, frequently referencing his perceived connections between the mysteries of the physical world and the divine.

I've had some experiences with people who have no interest in even considering the limitations of their own perspectives. Who hasn't? While it's easy to take certain things for granted, the physical agreements that bind molecules, atoms, the very subatomic particles making up what we think of as real isn't something that can be seen or held. It's energy. That's all anything is, right? Energy held together by more energy. Obviously, that's not going to be the title of a groundbreaking scientific paper, but that's about as far as my understanding has taken me. And it begs the question: what is real?

Normally, when I try to conceptualize something that escapes my pea-brain's abilities, I'm inclined to give up and pick up the nearest copy of US Weekly to soothe my battered gray matter. But I keep trying to understand physics because it is fundamentally the edge of understanding the mystery of all that is and all that might be. Einstein was smart enough to grasp that his profound understanding of the physical world and all that lies within and beyond it was limited. He was famous for looking at his advances as stepping-stones for greater understanding and welcomed revisions to his theories. Why can't the average person admit that what we tend to take as hard truth is just another version of the stories people have been telling themselves and each other since cave painting? What we "know" might be disproven at any time. Why is it so hard to accept that our "knowledge" has boundaries and open our minds to possibility?

I'm not really sure what it is that I'm trying to say. I think I've just experienced some frustration with narrow-minded perspectives and I'm trying to get past it. Instead of feeling the terror that sometimes accompanies my recognition that control is but an illusion, I feel almost a sense of comfort that the basic truth of what reality is exists, even if it's beyond me. I can try all I like to understand; no one at FermiLab is depending on my ability to grasp the concepts. I can contemplate the mysteries of the universe at my leisure, confident that I don't know shit about shit.

I really didn't have to write all this. I should just let Einstein do all of the talking for me from now on:

"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."


Anonymous said...

God I love quotes too

Nora said...

Aren't they great? I should speak only in quotes. Like a wise parrot.

Polly wanna cracker.


Jude said...

I see no problem with being optically delusional,or any other kind of delusional,for me it is not a prison,and at this point in my life my personal desires are all I'm concerned with.I'm plumb out of compassion...and running short on patience,also.But it's only Monday,give me a chance to warm up!

Ratherto said...

Remeber..Real or Reality is subjective and open to interpretation.

Nora said...

Exactly, Ratherto. I concur!

Jude, you've done your time taking care of everyone else. It's your time to be optically delusional and to pursue your own aims. I love you!