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New Atoms Doing the Same Dance

--by Richard Feynman (May 17, 2011)


I stand at the seashore, alone, and start to think. There are the rushing waves ... mountains of molecules, each stupidly minding its own business ... trillions apart ... yet forming white surf in unison.

Ages on ages ... before any eyes could see ... year after year ... thunderously pounding the shore as now. For whom, for what? ... on a dead planet, with no life to entertain.  Never at rest ... tortured by energy ... wasted prodigiously by the sun ... poured into space. A mite makes the sea roar.  Deep in the sea, all molecules repeat the patterns of one another till complex new ones are formed. They make others like themselves ... and a new dance starts.

Growing in size and complexity ... living things, masses of atoms, DNA, protein ... dancing a pattern ever more intricate.  Out of the cradle onto the dry land ... here it is standing ... atoms with consciousness ... matter with curiosity. Stands at the sea ... wonders at wondering ... I ... a universe of atoms ... an atom in the universe.

The same thrill, the same awe and mystery, come again and again when we look at any problem deeply enough. With more knowledge comes deeper, more wonderful mystery, luring one on to penetrate deeper still. Never concerned that the answer may prove disappointing, but with pleasure and confidence we turn over each new stone to find unimagined strangeness leading on to more wonderful questions and mysteries -- certainly a grand adventure! [...] 

This is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms, to note that the thing which I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, then go out; always new atoms but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday. [...] 

What, then, is the meaning of it all? What can we say to dispel the mystery of experience? If we take everything into account, not only what the ancients knew, but all of what we know today that they didn't know, then I think that we must frankly admit that we do not know. But in admitting this, we have probably found the open channel. 

--Richard Feynman, in Value of Science


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15 Previous Reflections:

 
On Sep 20, 2011 JAFFRAY wrote:

'How we know what ain't so!' READ  GILOVICH.



On May 24, 2011 Ganoba wrote:

 the quality of a decision is not judged by the outcome. quite true because decisions don't produce outcomes, actions do and there is a big chasm between a decision and an action. Intellectuals are prone to miss this point. what goes on in the mind is often not reflected in overt behaviour. another point to note is that personalities don't matter much, the process is all important. we tend to raise people to the level of gods and then begin to worship them Then they can do no wrong in our eyes. some people begin to believe their psycophants and start believing that they are gods. there are many such instances of this in and around us. i am afraid this is happening with some of us. Giving a talk is easy because we have a captive audience. having a free discussion is another matter. i am afraid Ron missed a wonderful opportunity in living his talk the way he handled the "yes-but"quetion. I am disappointed with soumik's comments about ron and his work. they smack of he  See full.

 the quality of a decision is not judged by the outcome.

quite true because decisions don't produce outcomes, actions do and there is a big chasm between a decision and an action. Intellectuals are prone to miss this point.

what goes on in the mind is often not reflected in overt behaviour.

another point to note is that personalities don't matter much, the process is all important. we tend to raise people to the level of gods and then begin to worship them Then they can do no wrong in our eyes. some people begin to believe their psycophants and start believing that they are gods. there are many such instances of this in and around us. i am afraid this is happening with some of us.

Giving a talk is easy because we have a captive audience. having a free discussion is another matter. i am afraid Ron missed a wonderful opportunity in living his talk the way he handled the "yes-but"quetion.

I am disappointed with soumik's comments about ron and his work. they smack of hero worship.

with love towards all involved in this process of finding the spiritual core.

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On May 24, 2011 Kinjal wrote:

Amazing intersection of science meeting philosophy! I guess new atoms doing the same dance is not necessarily true as new atoms might tweak the same dance to form a slightly new dance that may go on to become the "same dance" for newer atoms. However, it is simply amazing to know that there's way more left to discover than we might think.

To Prathiba: I think new atoms probably are derived from energy that is not created or destroyed so to speak... That's my take on it :)

Have a great day everyone.



On May 23, 2011 Somik Raha wrote:

For some who've asked me about follow-up resources on Prof. Ron Howard's talk last Wednesday, here is the mail I sent out to those who attended. Really loved reading the comments, especially PK's note, pointing out that we have the good and the bad in us. Also enjoyed Manasi's comment: It seems to me that knowlegde conventionally is the pursuit of certainty rather than a willingness to open into the mystery; and very often is the product of an intellect than seeks constant validation of it's usefulness. Unconventional knowledge is then the pursuit of uncertainty of the subjective kind (as if there's any other). :)   See full.

For some who've asked me about follow-up resources on Prof. Ron Howard's talk last Wednesday, here is the mail I sent out to those who attended.

Really loved reading the comments, especially PK's note, pointing out that we have the good and the bad in us. Also enjoyed Manasi's comment:

It seems to me that knowlegde conventionally is the pursuit of certainty rather than a willingness to open into the mystery; and very often is the product of an intellect than seeks constant validation of it's usefulness.

Unconventional knowledge is then the pursuit of uncertainty of the subjective kind (as if there's any other). :) 

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On May 20, 2011 Dinesh wrote:

Last Wednesday, we had the honor of having Professor Ron Howard join us for an evening filled with insights and humor.  Below is the audio recording ...



On May 20, 2011 pratibha wrote:

response to deepa:    where do those atoms come from?  do they have a causation and origination?   Would like to throw out this question and later I'll give my view.



On May 20, 2011 deepa wrote:

New atoms doing the same dance is just superb. It's a new age story and it is inspiring



On May 18, 2011 Ganoba wrote:

 The atoms don't do the same dance, very similar, but not the same.If they did evolution would not happen. i am surprised that feynman did not notice the small changes.

Nature does not repeat itself. It is the most creative artist there is and the most effortless.

As to purpose we humans do not where all this is going, if at all. that does not mean there is no purpose. But we have always done this. What we do not understand, we label as nonsense.

One more thing. Being curious is not the same as being doubtful.

Being present is being on the edge of knowing and not knowing.



On May 15, 2011 PK wrote:

 When I first heard that every cell in my body gets replaced in approximately 7 years, I was excited. That means, my allergies don't linger if I don't get exposed to allergens for 7 years. Similarly, I will be able to be a different person without my bad habits, patterns and dysfunctionalities -- so I thought. But as the title of this message says, new atoms do the same dance. it is not the atoms that make a difference, but the pattern in which those atoms organize. That is my individuality, my addictions, my gifts, blessings and that is who I am. I am a pattern -- like DNA is a pattern of four base pairs. Elements are the same but how we are organized is what makes us all different -- not just human beings, animals, plants -- entire universe. In a Hindu scripture, there is a prayer called Narayana Suktam. It talks about how we have a primordial spark in each of us. And that spark represents universal life and that universal life is divine -- it is Narayana Himself. In addition,  See full.

 When I first heard that every cell in my body gets replaced in approximately 7 years, I was excited. That means, my allergies don't linger if I don't get exposed to allergens for 7 years. Similarly, I will be able to be a different person without my bad habits, patterns and dysfunctionalities -- so I thought.

But as the title of this message says, new atoms do the same dance. it is not the atoms that make a difference, but the pattern in which those atoms organize. That is my individuality, my addictions, my gifts, blessings and that is who I am. I am a pattern -- like DNA is a pattern of four base pairs. Elements are the same but how we are organized is what makes us all different -- not just human beings, animals, plants -- entire universe.

In a Hindu scripture, there is a prayer called Narayana Suktam. It talks about how we have a primordial spark in each of us. And that spark represents universal life and that universal life is divine -- it is Narayana Himself. In addition, it is the entire universe that is in our heart -- in the size of a rice grain. This passage reminds me of it.

So I have you in me and you have me in you. Not only that, I have all the past -- good and bad -- Hitler, Gandhi, Rama, Ravana, Kali, Lakshmi -- everything is in me. Not in the "me" that I think I am but in the me that is potential. When i am optimistic I tap into something. When I am pessimistic, I tap into something completely opposite. I am creating what is happening to me all the time in partnership with the universe. I pick and choose how I experience. Including the "i" I relate to and that is what is individualistic.

Can I choose to serve instead of wanting more? Can I love instead of hate? I can and when I do, the pattern changes.

So what pattern are you going to choose today? How are you manifesting this world?

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On May 15, 2011 Ricky wrote:

A dance…and science.  Are they mutually exclusive?  According to Einstein’s reflections, and Thoreau’s writings, and Christ’s teachings, we are interconnected, no matter what spin your thinking brain may put on it.   There is an open channel to the story of life, and we experience it through our physiological system, our emotional and mental system, and our spiritual system.  These are not separate as some may lead us to believe.  The life here according to Dr. Weiss can be explained in this way:  ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.’  And we are vibrational.  In the Yoga Sutras, we come together in likemindedness and joy to connect with this vibration.  Jesus stated that wherever two or more gather, He is in the midst.  For me this means two or more spiritual entities.  What a connection.  According to Rumi, in the &ls  See full.

A dance…and science.  Are they mutually exclusive?  According to Einstein’s reflections, and Thoreau’s writings, and Christ’s teachings, we are interconnected, no matter what spin your thinking brain may put on it.

 

There is an open channel to the story of life, and we experience it through our physiological system, our emotional and mental system, and our spiritual system.  These are not separate as some may lead us to believe.  The life here according to Dr. Weiss can be explained in this way:  ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.’  And we are vibrational.  In the Yoga Sutras, we come together in likemindedness and joy to connect with this vibration.  Jesus stated that wherever two or more gather, He is in the midst.  For me this means two or more spiritual entities.  What a connection.  According to Rumi, in the ‘Mystery of the Moment’:  “To the mind there is such a thing as news, whereas to the inner knowing, it is all in the middle of its happening.  To doubters, this is a pain.  To believers, it’s gospel.  To the lover and the visionary, it is life as it’s being lived.” 

 

How I tune into this open channel is through a myriad of revelations and happenings every moment of every day…the simple life.  Removing shoes and moving slowly through the meadow, mindful of each footfall.  Resting on a sun warmed rock, looking up, embraced by and connected with the earth and the puffy white clouds billowing in the deepest blue sky.  Sensory responses such as goosebumps, hair on the back of the neck, rapid heart beat, vibrational movements within personal space, to unseen happenings.  A Sanskrit mantra.  The spoken word, no matter the language.  An indigenous story.  Releasing stress with negative ions near the ocean waves, splashing in a waterfall, being enveloped by fog, twirling in the rain.  The sight and sound of salmon jumping in the kelp bed.  A tree in full fragrant blossom, supporting a din of pollinators of every size, color, and hum.  Porpoises teaching and playing with offspring.  An eagle pair negotiating meal selections and parental duties.  Eating crunchy lettuce leaves straight from the soil, from a plant bathed in the sun’s energy, dripping with the sweetest liquid.  A singing bowl.  Listening to the positive affirming inspirational language of children.  Stilling the mind with each breath, listening to the beating heart, surrounded by bird songs and motorcycle OMs. Children spontaneously laughing in play.  Full and intense eye contact with a ‘stranger’ and resonating with the connection that results, touching joy.  Harmony expressed through song, drums, strums.  Deep heart connection in a hug.  Observing wildlife simply coming and going.  Quail herding the brood of 10.  Sunset.  Sunrise.  Moonset.  Moonrise.  Shooting stars.  Aurora borealis.  Effortless bird flight.  Fish schools.  A teen yoga practice.  An unexpected smile.  “Seeing color”.  A newborn, no matter the species.  Awareness through trusting the deep inner knowing, experiencing the ‘aha’ moment.  Watching sea otters frolic, harbor seals communicate through slapping the water, mo’o (lizards) and the halting gait.   Frog lullabies in spring rains.  Peace and complete happiness through calm reflection.  The lone tree, roots tightly gripping the side of the sheer cliff, sheltering and supporting the tiniest nest of a hummingbird and baby chicks.  A lake at once still and teaming with life.  Smelling rain before it arrives.  Jumping, completely weightless, into the warm ocean, welcomed by the turtle and the coral.  The purring cat.  The dog in downdog.  Whale songs while sitting on the beach.  A bell sound.  Delightful giggling at the antics of sand crabs.  The rush of energy after a task completed, or an exhilarating activity.  Drinking in the beauty and tranquility at the top of the peak, no matter the height or distance.  At an advanced age expressing the joy of my five year old self through spontaneous, rhythmic movement.  Warm healing hands, pressed together.  Being ever present and authentic.  The metaphor of Indra’s net in a spider’s web.  Laying down cultural and academic beliefs on separateness, and embracing the nurture of interconnectedness…filled with Love.     

 

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On May 15, 2011 xiaoshan wrote:

This is one of the most insightful writings I have ever read.

You throw some atoms together in a way, call it a  'car', and drive it to a city in far distance. You throw the some atoms together in another way, call it a 'rocket', and shoot it to the moon. Perhaps later on you notice the same set of atoms, forming a thing called 'rabbit', hopping into the woods...

What, then, is the meaning of it all? 

 



On May 15, 2011 Manasi wrote:

 I love that he says "With more knowledge comes deeper, more wonderful mystery, luring one on to penetrate deeper still"

It seems to me that knowlegde conventionally is the pursuit of certainty rather than a willingness to open into the mystery; and very often is the product of an intellect than seeks constant validation of it's usefulness.

But then when we look at much of what all the great seekers say it is much more about the pleasure of asking itself, which leads to the humbling conclusion of not knowing rather than knowing. 
"If we take everything into account, then I think that we must frankly admit that we do not know"



On May 14, 2011 Pratibha wrote:

New Atoms Doing A Dance.........    I think that the atoms and molecules are the evolutes of nature and they go on and on without a purpose except that there is always change in the world, in ourselves, in everything.  Everything comes and everything goes. Purpose? Yes and No.   Purpose is in fact the expression of the phenomenal world in all its many facets.  Humans being the last of the created creatures can direct its purpose more than any other creature.  It can transcend, transform, and know its consciousness as well as direct one's life toward this end.

Pratibha 



On May 14, 2011 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

Fascinating. Thanks much for sending it. From my point of view, the open channel is one's being open. To paraphrase Gandhi, there is no way to openness. Openness is the way. Openness is unbounded. Freedom is unbounded. Not knowing is unbounded. Emptiness is  like unboundness  and freedom. Being free helps us notice everything. Noticing everything has the same effect as noticing nothing, if one accepts noticing nothing as being no problem. If it is defined, it is contained. There is no uncontained container. As  Lao Tzu said, the way that can be said is not the way. We need not dispel mystery, but cherish it. I suggest schools, in a non-graded manner, allow students to explore what they find remarkable, interesting, and important. Doing so would help us learn much even to the point of learning we do not know much if anything. As a Sage said, there's nothing to know, nothing to attain, and nothing to realize. Nothing is unbounded and mysterious. Knowing nothing helps us  See full.

Fascinating. Thanks much for sending it.
From my point of view, the open channel is one's being open. To paraphrase Gandhi, there is no way to openness. Openness is the way. Openness is unbounded. Freedom is unbounded. Not knowing is unbounded. Emptiness is  like unboundness  and freedom. Being free helps us notice everything. Noticing everything has the same effect as noticing nothing, if one accepts noticing nothing as being no problem. If it is defined, it is contained. There is no uncontained container. As  Lao Tzu said, the way that can be said is not the way. We need not dispel mystery, but cherish it.

I suggest schools, in a non-graded manner, allow students to explore what they find remarkable, interesting, and important. Doing so would help us learn much even to the point of learning we do not know much if anything. As a Sage said, there's nothing to know, nothing to attain, and nothing to realize. Nothing is unbounded and mysterious. Knowing nothing helps us be unbounded – free. When we are free, we have more of a chance of being compassionate and kind. When we are free, we are free of a separate self. We can then be no one going, nowhere, knowing nothing. Thanks. Viral for giving me the opportunity to share my experience. Conrad
 

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On May 14, 2011 Edit Lak wrote:

This to me is 'One 'Breath' the breathe we take to live and to live and to live.

Thanks